After Years of Challenges, Foursquare Has Found its Purpose — and Profits

Foursquare had always thought of itself as an app for consumers, but this treasure trove suggested something else to Glueck: The company needed to think of itself as a location data company. Enormous companies like Yahoo and Pinterest were using it a billion times a year; for example, when you pin a photo in Pinterest and tag its location, that’s using Foursquare’s data.

In mid-2014, it split its consumer apps in two — Swarm became the check-in app, and Foursquare City Guide recommended activities based on user interests. Three of the top five hedge funds are using Foursquare data to give them an investing edge. More than one million users have agreed to leave location sharing on all the time so Foursquare can track and analyze their movements; through a partnership with Nielsen, that data is then being connected to consumers’ purchasing data, so that marketers can understand how ads people see directly relate to purchases they make. Glueck sought inspiration for how to evolve the company’s culture, and referred to Good to Great, a book by Jim Collins about how 11 companies shook off mediocrity to become market leaders. Foursquare’s core as a data company was always there, just waiting for the right technology to make it possible. Glueck had been making the rounds for less than a year, seeding the market with all kinds of predictions based on his company’s data — how many new iPhones Apple would sell, or how well McDonald’s all-day breakfast launch was going. Foursquare had reinvented itself as a location intelligence company for business, but it was in the painstaking process of shaking off its image as a forgotten consumer app.

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