Wednesday, September 08, 2010

StartUp Anxiety For FourSquare?

Image representing Foursquare as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase
I touched upon this topic in a blog post weeks back when Facebook Places just went live.

Facebook Doing Location Is Like Google Doing Social, Almost

In light of this New York Observer article (In Facebook's Crosshairs), I feel the need to elaborate a little.
New York Observer: In Facebook's Crosshairs: He didn't make the trip himself, sending in his stead Foursquare's new VP for mobile and partnerships, a fellow named Holger Luedorf, who spoke at the event for only a few minutes and made clear that Foursquare was not yet sure about the nature of its "partnership" with Facebook. ...... The next day, Mr. Crowley wrote on Twitter that his 86-year-old grandma had called him and remarked that this Facebook thing "sounds like Four-Squared, but without the fun." .... the New York City tech scene, which badly needs a major local success story ..... turning their fledgling service—currently at some three million registered users and growing by about 18,000 new users per day—into the city's first true social media juggernaut. ...... Crowley wants Foursquare to transcend its status as a niche mobile check-in tool, and to become the platform upon which all other check-in tools, whatever they turn out to be, are built. ...... —if you control the infrastructure, you control the market. We see the same thing with Twitter and with Apple." ...... "My personal view is, it's going to be huge—Facebook huge," said Hunch founder Chris Dixon, an investor in Foursquare who is not known for polite optimism. "They'll have a huge brand and a direct relationship with users. ... They absolutely could become the dominant platform upon which all check-in services are built." ........ "your favorite, er, mobile + social + friend finder + social city guide + nightlife game thing" ...... Facebook's apparent desire to become the dominant platform for check-ins did not worry him ...... We're developing this really deep and rich road map for what we're going to do ..... the implementation of Places would be good for Foursquare in the long run because it meant Facebook would be doing the hard work of popularizing the hard-to-grasp concept of check-ins—location-based and otherwise—while the Foursquare crew was left to innovate and figure out new ways to make them useful to people and the businesses that want to sell them things. ........ Where Foursquare has an admired—some might say tricked out —API, Facebook has so far released only a read-only version of theirs, which severely limits what developers can build on top of it.
It is perhaps relevant to mention another company that I blogged about recently: FoodSpotting. That is a bi-coastal startup. But it does have a major New York City presence. So I guess hometown pride is warranted. But perhaps bi-coastal is the future. You get the best of both worlds. And you prove geography is not that relevant.

FoodSpotting does not do bland check ins, it does a very specific type of check ins. Does that mean FourSquare will some day wake up and eat up FoodSpotting for lunch? I don't see that as a possibility. FourSquare just can not do what FoodSpotting does. That same logic for Facebook, FourSquare is even more true. Facebook does not have the option to become an experience for which checking in is your starting point. On the other hand FourSquare could make claim that the FourSquare social graph is much more real than the Facebook social graph. The truth is they are just different.

FoodSpotting Is The Next FourSquare

Even if Facebook had not done Places, there were no guarantees FourSquare would survive and do well and see an IPO exit - my personal recommendation to the company - but the real news from the Facebook Places launch was it gave FourSquare a visibility that it never had before. How is that depressing? There were more check ins on FourSquare that day than any other day in recorded history.

If I were FourSquare, I'd still be more worried about Gowalla than Facebook, although I'd work extra hard to work out just the right partnership with Facebook.

The FourSquare founders are brimming with ideas they want to execute, features they want to add. The real action for FourSquare is in the front, it is not in the rear view mirror.

I look forward to FourSquare burning up all its 20 million and getting ready to raise its next round. Sooner is better.

It is unrealistic to think Facebook could have stayed away from the location space. It is also unrealistic to think Facebook can become the leader in the location space if checking in is not the starting point of the Facebook experience, which it isn't. Facebook Mobile is mini me. Facebook is a big screen web experience, primarily.
New York Observer: Foursquare’s Happy Growing Pains: Crowley said the space shortage has been not just inconvenient but detrimental to Foursquare's evolution ..... "There are three or four big-ticket items we've been talking about all summer," Mr. Crowley said. "All the specs are written—they're waiting there, like half of the designs are done—but they just haven't been implemented because we don't have an engineer that could work on it full time." ...."Or when the lounge furniture started coming together, it was like, 'Whoa, real conference rooms, with chairs!'"
In The News

VentureBeat: Blog Platform Tumblr’s Soaring Traffic Brings Growing Pains: seeing massive traffic growth ..... skyrocketed over the first half of the year and reached about 1.7 billion page views in the month of August. ...., an older, more established blog platform, recently reported 2.1 billion monthly pageviews ..... Tumblr, which employs about 10 people ..... Six Apart, a blogging pioneer whose TypePad service competes most directly with Automattic’s, recently announced it is folding the simplified blogging service Vox, which never gained firm traction after four years of existence. ..... You can give this to somebody who can barely program a VCR and they can do a blog post in a minute.” .... you can find a whole lot more of value on a Tumblr page potentially than on a Twitter page.

GigaOm: Chris Dixon To VCs: Act More Like Startups: “have fewer meetings” and “have everyone at the firm blog/tweet.” ..... venture firms should act more like the startups they invest in, right down to his suggestion that they “have offices that look and cost like startup offices — or better yet, don’t have offices at all [and] spend your time visiting companies.” ..... VCs should not “talk/tweet/blog about your vineyard, yachting, golfing etc. while you tell your CEOs to work non-stop and be frugal.” ..... “Stop kidding yourself that you add a lot of value beyond recruiting/intros/governance/financing/selling companies.” ..... “Say no to companies. Saying “come back later” feels like a free option to you but actually hurts you and the startup in the long run.”

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