Mar
08
2019
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Foursquare’s Hypertrending helps you spy on the coolest local happenings

Ten years after the launch of Foursquare at SXSW, the company is laying its technology bare with a futuristic version of its old app that doesn’t require a check-in at all. The godfather of location apps is returning to the launchpad with Hypertrending, but this time it hopes to learn what developers might do with real-time info about where people are and where they aren’t.

Hypertrending uses Foursquare’s Pilgrim technology, which is baked into Foursquare’s apps and offered as a third-party enterprise tool, to show where phones are in real time over the course of SXSW in Austin, Texas.

This information is relayed through dots on a map. The size of those dots is a reflection of the number of devices in that place at a given time. Users can filter the map by All places, Food, Nightlife and Fun (events and parties).

Hypertrending also has a Top 100 list that is updated in real time to show which places are super popular, with arrows to show whether a place is trending up or down.

Before you throw up your hands in outrage, the information on Hypertrending is aggregated and anonymized (just like it is within Pilgrim), and there are no trails showing the phone’s route from one place to another. Dots only appear on the map when the phone arrives at a destination.

Hypertrending was cooked up in Foursquare’s skunkworks division, Foursquare Labs, led by the company’s co-founder Dennis Crowley .

The feature is only available during SXSW and in the Austin area, and thus far Foursquare has no plans to launch this publicly. So… what’s the deal?

First and foremost, Hypertrending is about showing off the technology. In many ways, Hypertrending isn’t new at all, in that it runs off the Pilgrim technology that has powered Foursquare since around 2014.

Pilgrim is the tech that recognizes you’ve just sat down at a restaurant and offers up a tip about the menu on Foursquare City Guide, and it’s the same tech that notices you’ve just touched down in a new city and makes some recommendations on places to go. In Swarm, it’s the tech that offers up a list of all the places you’ve been in case you want to retroactively check in to them.

That sounds rather simple, but a combination of Foursquare’s 10 years’ worth of location data and Pilgrim’s hyper-precision is unparalleled when it comes to accuracy, according to Crowley.

Whereas other location tech might not understand the difference between you being in the cafe on the first floor or the salon on the second floor, or the bar that shares a wall with both, Pilgrim does.

This is what led Foursquare to build out the Pilgrim SDK, which now sees more than 100 million user-confirmed visits per month. Apps that use the Pilgrim SDK offer users the ability to opt-in to Foursquare’s always-on location tracking for its mobile app panel in the U.S., which has grown to 10 million devices.

These 10 million phones provide the data that powers Hypertrending.

Now, the data itself might not be new, per se. But Foursquare has never visualized the information quite like this, even for enterprise customers.

Whereas customers of the Foursquare Place Insights, Pinpoint and Attribution get snapshots into their own respective audiences, Hypertrending represents on a large scale just what Foursquare’s tech is capable of in not only knowing where people are, but where people aren’t.

This brings us back to SXSW, which happens to be the place where Foursquare first launched back in 2009.

“This week has felt a little nostalgic as we try to get this thing ready to go,” said Crowley. “It’s not that dissimilar to when we went to SXSW in 2009 and showed off Foursquare 1.0. There is this curious uncertainty and my whole thing is to get a sense of what people think of it.”

Crowley recalled his first trip to SXSW with co-founder Naveen Selvadurai. They couldn’t afford an actual pass to the show so they just went from party to party showing people the app and hearing what they thought. Crowley said that he doesn’t expect Hypertrending to be some huge consumer app.

“I want to show off what we can do with the technology and the data and hopefully inspire developers to do interesting stuff with this raw visualization of where phones are at,” said Crowley. “What would you do if you had access to this? Would you make something cool and fun or make something obnoxious and creepy?”

Beyond the common tie of SXSW, Hypertrending brings Foursquare’s story full circle in the fact that it’s potentially the most poignant example of what Crowley always wanted Foursquare to be. Location is one of the most powerful pieces of information about an individual. One’s physical location is, in many ways, the most purely truthful piece of information about them in a sea of digital clicks and scroll-bys.

If this data could be harnessed properly, without any work on the side of the consumer, what possibilities might open up?

“We’ve long talked about making ‘a check-in button you never had to press,’ ” said Crowley in the blog post. “Hypertrending is part of that vision realized, spread across multiple apps and services.”

Crowley also admits in the blog post that Hypertrending walks a fine line between creepy and cool, which is another reason for the ephemeral nature of the feature. It’s also the exact reason he wants to open it up to everyone.

From the blog post:

After 10 years, it’s clear that we (Foursquare!) are going to play a role in influencing how contextual-aware technologies shape the future – whether that’s apps that react to where you are and where you’ve been, smarter virtual assistants (e.g Alexa, Siri, Marsbot) that understand how you move through cities, or AR objects that need to appear at just the right time in just the right spot. We want to build a version of the future that we’re proud of, and we want your input as we get to work building it.

And…

We made Hypertrending to show people how Foursquare’s panel works in terms of what it can do (and what it will not do), as well as to show people how we as a company think about navigating this space. We feel the general trend with internet and technology companies these days has been to keep giving users a more and more personalized (albeit opaquely personalized) view of the world, while the companies that create these feeds keep the broad “God View” to themselves. Hypertrending is one example of how we can take Foursquare’s aggregate view of the world and make it available to the users who make it what it is. This is what we mean when we talk about “transparency” – we want to be honest, in public, about what our technology can do, how it works, and the specific design decisions we made in creating it.

We asked Crowley what would happen if brands and marketers loved the idea of Hypertrending, but general consumers were freaked out?

“This is an easy question,” said Crowley. “If this freaks people out, we don’t build stuff with it. We’re not ready for it yet. But I’d go back to the drawing board and ask ‘What do we learn from people that are freaked out about it that would help us communicate to them,’ or ‘what are the changes we could make to this that would make people comfortable,’ or ‘what are the things we could build that would illustrate the value of this that this view didn’t communicate?’ ”

As mentioned above, Hypertrending is only available during the SXSW conference in the Austin area. Users can access Hypertrending through both the Foursquare City Guide app and Swarm by simply shaking their phone.

Nov
01
2018
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Foursquare partners with TripAdvisor

Foursquare, the former location-based social network turned enterprise location data platform, has today announced a new partnership with TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor will be using Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK, launched in March 2017, to help the platform better serve users with contextually relevant, real-time information based on their location.

Alongside the 13 billion check-ins accumulated on Foursquare’s apps since inception, the company also has analytics based on a consumer panel of more than 70 million people in the U.S. — 10 million of whom have opted into always-on location sharing. This data is the same data that powers Foursquare’s own apps, like, for example, when you get a push notification with a menu tip as you sit down for dinner at a restaurant.

Pilgrim SDK and Foursquare’s other enterprise products give other apps the ability to communicate with users with contextual relevance, and that’s what TripAdvisor is looking to do through this partnership.

TripAdvisor recently launched a new app and website that focuses on social sharing and personalized recommendations. Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK complements TripAdvisor technology, ensuring that hyper-personalized recommendations are truly accurate.

TripAdvisor reaches more than half a billion users worldwide, which significantly increases the pool of user data Foursquare can potentially access.

This comes on the heels of Foursquare’s Series F financing round, which was announced last month.

Oct
02
2018
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Foursquare picks up $33 million Series F investment

Foursquare has today announced the partial close of a $33 million Series F financing, with $25 million already closed out and another $8 million inbound, according to the blog post.

The round was co-led by Simon Ventures and Naver Corp, with participation from Union Square Ventures, an existing investor.

Over the past four years, Foursquare has pivoted from a consumer-facing social application to an enterprise platform, giving brands, retailers and ad platforms a way to get accurate, location-based data about their customers and their conversion rates.

Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told TechCrunch that more than 90 percent of Foursquare’s revenue comes from the enterprise side of the business. Two of the company’s most popular products are Attribution and the Pilgrim SDK.

With Attribution, Foursquare allows retailers and publishers to effectively track the impact their media has on conversion at offline locations. Using a panel of 25 million, non-incentivized users, these brands and retailers can track their own impact, as well as make more informed campaign decisions using insights around foot traffic and visit history of certain demographics.

The Pilgrim SDK, on the other hand, allows brands and partners to deliver highly relevant notifications and other experiences to their own users by leveraging Foursquare’s troves of location data.

Foursquare customers include Tinder, AccuWeather, Spotify, Hilton and iHeartMedia, and that doesn’t include the long list of brands — Uber, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Twitter — whose platforms are powered by Foursquare location.

According to Glueck, one of Foursquare’s greatest advantages is that they can offer the same high-level capabilities as their competitors, such as Facebook and Google, while focusing solely on the value they’re delivering to partners.

“The success of Google or Facebook or Amazon makes them great companies but unreliable partners,” said Glueck. “The truth about these walled gardens is that they can change their terms and conditions on a whim. They’re not partner-oriented. They’re seeking domination. It’s important for an independent developer community to be able to partner with a company that has the same capabilities.”

Foursquare currently includes more than 100 million places in more than 150 countries on their platform, which powers apps that collectively serve more than 1 billion consumers.

This latest round, which increased the company’s valuation, brings Foursquare’s total funding to $240 million.

Jul
10
2018
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Foursquare brings on Liz Ritzcovan as chief revenue officer

Foursquare has just hired Liz Ritzcovan as Chief Revenue Officer.

Ritzcovan hails from BazaarVoice, where she also served as CRO. She previously held CRO positions at Sizmek and Parade Media Group, and before that, spent time at Yahoo, Time Inc, and Interbrand.

Though Foursquare has been around since 2009, things have changed a lot for the company. What started as a consumer-facing app to log and share location information has become a SaaS company focused on helping brands understand their customer’s real-world habits and convert those habits into meaningful transactions and experiences.

That started with the unbundling of the legacy Foursquare app into Foursquare (a Yelp competitor centered around recommendations) and Swarm (a social location check-in app). As of 2016, both apps have more than 50 million active users, which—along with insights from partners—has in turn yielded the data necessary to create enterprise tools.

For example, Pinpoint by Foursquare (an ad product) has more than half of the Ad Age 100 as advertisers, and Attribution by Foursquare (a measurement product) has doubled its revenue in 2017. And that doesn’t include the Pilgrim SDK and Places API, which helped contribute to Foursquare’s 50 percent revenue growth year over year for the past three years.

Ritzcovan is aware that, despite the growth of e-commerce, 90 percent of consumer spending and memorable experiences happen in the real world. But getting clients, usually internet-facing companies, to understand that is her new great challenge.

Here’s what she had to say in her announcement blog post:

So what is my first priority as CRO? Client centricity. Foursquare needs to deepen our connection with our partners: explaining to business leaders why it’s critical to leverage more than a single Foursquare solution—be it ad campaigns with Pinpoint, measurement with Attribution, or location-based CRM and messaging with our Pilgrim SDK and Places API—by taking all of these parts together and connecting the dots. Foursquare is more and more about bundling technology licensing, mapping capabilities, and marketing optimization in a suite of solutions. It’s the reason I joined, to help lead the team into packaging these broad “solution sets” for leading organizations and brands.

Oct
04
2017
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Foursquare revamps its developer site as API usage soars

 It’s no secret that developers are the key to Foursquare’s continued success, and as part of supporting that mission the company just launched a revamped developer site, its first major refresh since 2009. The new site clarifies what the difference is between the developer offerings. The Places API is the free offering that most developers will use that serves up information on… Read More

May
09
2016
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How Foursquare hopes to hit profitability

Jeff Glueck and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare Foursquare’s business looks a whole lot different than it used to. New CEO Jeff Glueck and co-founder Dennis Crowley know it — and they still have a plan to hit $100 million in revenue, and profitability, in the next few years. They talked about some of their efforts, like focusing on building new tools for businesses that can help them grow, onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt… Read More

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