Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dennis Crowley: FBI Background Check

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Foursquare co...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI knew there was something special about this guy. Now I know.

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Business Insider: The $600 Million Social Life Of Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley
..... his success didn't happen overnight .... a series of failures and disappointments .... Crowley convinced the school to let him blog for the remaining credits. Teendrama, where Crowley was already writing about his college antics, became his independent study...... "People flocked to Dennis. He wasn’t up in the front of the room saying, ‘Hey, follow me.’ He just did stuff that was fun and people wanted to be with him. He’s always been that way, and that has never changed.” ....... “I remember thinking, what a cool life this guy lives,” says Jonathan (J) Crowley of his brother. “He was working at a hot tech company, going out all the time, he had lots of friends … and then it all disappeared.” ....... In 2001, the week Crowley turned 25, Vindigo went through a series of layoffs and Crowley was let go. That same week he was evicted from his apartment. .... Crowley spent the summer trying to line up interviews, but jobs were scarce. ...... On September 11, Crowley watched the twin towers crumble before his eyes. ..... Crowley's life, it seemed, followed suit. ...... In a matter of months he lost his job, his girlfriend, his home, his direction and eventually New York City and all the friends it held. Crowley was forced to move home to New Hampshire. He hadn’t a clue where life would take him next....... Crowley remained in New Hampshire for the next seven months. It was a tough transition and his spirits were down. ...... “He went from living in New York to living in a tiny little ski house in New Hampshire, and from making a good amount of money to making about $6 per hour teaching kids to snowboard,” says J.......... Dodgeball had continued to transform as Crowley’s side project, but up in New Hampshire he didn’t have the heart to work on it. ....... Bored, alone and broke, Crowley survived by making a few ground rules. From his blog:

Note to fellow unemployed kids: (aka Rules to Live By)
1. Leave your apt before noon every day.
2. No drinking before 5pm.
3. No watching TV before 5pm (except during lunch).
4. No taking taxis.
5. No eating meals when drunk.

Resilient, Crowley turned the bad times into jokes and wrote haikus for his troubles:

unemployment check.
you never showed up this week.
please come again soon.

every month i throw
eighty dollars towards this gym.
towels should be free.

atm machine
i already know i'm poor
keep your damn receipt

hello girl from nerve
i wish you were half as cute
as you looked online

99 cent nugs,
junior bacon cheeseburger
and a frosty, please.

ex-girlfriend. birthday.
send a card - or just "forget"?
my heart she broke. twice.

...... Crowley introduced the game to other NYU students and worked with a professor, Clay Shirkey, to develop it during an independent study. Rainert and Crowley refer to Shirkey as the Patron Saint of Social Media. With his help they tested out social and mobile features for Dodgeball, like Shouting, where messages were sent within a 15 block radius. ......... That summer Crowley learned about finance and angel investing. Their pursuit of capital led them to Google’s doors in September........ Google was fresh out of its IPO and it wasn't in the habit of investing in startups. When Crowley and Rainert met with Google they were told, according to Dennis, "We don't really finance companies but maybe you guys should just come and work here."
That moment was one of the high points in Crowley’s career........ He wrote about it on his blog, of course......... “Hey kids, my grad school thesis project (and what seems like my life's work),, was acquired by Google today!........“Special shoutouts to everyone that's helped out. Tallboys for everyone. Forever!”..... But the high didn’t last, and selling to Google ultimately put Crowley at another low point....... “Everyone sees this side of Dennis that's so electric but there was a phase when he was in a rut. He was in a tough position. I don't think he could find the energy to get himself excited.” ..... Selvadurai had a desk around the corner from Crowley....... “He was the one guy who knew how to make iPhone stuff. He liked hacking city apps,” recalls Crowley. “I was doing a lot of mobile work and I also liked city stuff and we just started working together. We were experimenting for four to five months. It wasn't until January 2009 when we said, ‘Let's get serious about this and launch it for SXSW.’”....... The ordinarily social Crowley became reclusive.......“When Dennis stops socializing, you know he’s working on something really big,” says J. ......One week in January, a rare event occurred: A Friday and Saturday night passed with no sign of Crowley. ......An entire week passed and J still hadn’t heard from his brother.......“Then a group of us got an email that said, ‘Hey guys, I built this, what do you think?’ It was the first version of Foursquare; it was originally called Jimmy Disco,” says J. ...... Foursquare wasn’t always smooth sailing for Crowley. ..... “Everyone thinks the Foursquare experience is this rocket ship that started at SXSW 2009 and it hasn't let up, when in reality it was a little spike and then a summer of nothing,” says Crowley...... It took him and Selvadurai about nine months to raise the first round of capital for Foursquare. ...... “Then it spiked back up and it plateaued, and it spiked back up and it plateaued,” he says. “Of course if you average it out [the Foursquare experience] looks like a nice hockey stick curve. If you zoom in a little bit it is super, super rocky.” ....... “My whole career is a bunch of sizzles and spikes,” says Crowley. “I'm still trying to make sense of all of it, but when you look back it all starts to connect. Everything connects in hindsight. Of course you don't realize any of that going forward, you only realize that when you look back.” ...... last month he traveled across the country with five ridiculous-looking corn cob pipes to surprise his friends in Lake Tahoe. ...... "I've been trying to solve the same problems for many years and build software that helps optimize downtime. Of course the problem set keeps evolving and changing."....... Perhaps Crowley’s life-long wrestle with Foursquare stems from the fact that he so deeply embodies the product. Life, for him, is a constant game of checking in with people he loves. The personal reward he gets from being with friends and discovering new ways to have fun is what he wants every Foursquare user to experience.

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