What exactly is so special about Foursquare?

Ronny Kerr · October 19, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/12d0

Holger Luedorf, Foursquare VP of mobile partnerships, basically confesses that his company got lucky


With all the competition out there--Booyah, Facebook Places, Foursquare, Geomium, Google Latitutude, Gowalla, Loopt, and Twitter geo-location--why is Foursquare the most popular and consistently most talked about social location application?

That’s the question VentureBeat founder and editor-in-chief Matt Marshall sought to answer in a fireside chat at DiscoveryBeat 2010 with Holger Luedorf, VP of mobile partnerships at Foursquare. Based on their conversation, one could be convinced that Foursquare merely entered the world at the right place and right time.

Well, not quite.

Luedorf believes that Foursquare had a winning formula from the beginning for drawing users to its special brand of location discovery. In the first place, Foursquare focuses on achieving one central function: keeping people in touch by telling them where their friends are. Other companies that offer location technology, like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, provide different primary services that have been able to incorporate location along the way.

Foursquare’s second advantage (though this doesn’t really differ from the most popular location apps) is its bend towards really relevant location information. Instead of just general areas or approximations, precise locations like restaurants and bars have check-ins. The final key to the Foursquare formula is that very emphasis on the gaming aspect of check-ins. Users like to earn badges and compete for the title of mayor at certain establishments, especially when real-world perks are involved.

Still, beyond all the features offered by Foursquare, maybe there is something to that whole “right place, right time” mantra.

The service’s launch at SXSW, as Luedorf mentioned several times in his short on-stage chat with Marshall, may have been the vehicle that really rocketed Foursquare into the limelight. Hundreds of technology enthusiasts were the very first users of the app, enjoyed what they saw, and their usage trickled down to more and more users. In fact, the company didn’t even spend any money on press campaigns.

“You can never plan growth,” argued Luedorf. (Although, maybe if Foursquare had planned a little better for growth, the service may not have been hit with such severe outages recently.) The mobile VP later confirmed that Foursquare “didn’t spend any money on marketing or PR. That would not be the right way to spend money. We are spending money on resources, things that will better the product. Money helps you build a team, but we’re not using it for other reasons.”

In the end, an audience member inevitably asked Luedorf what he thought about a potential acquisition or threat posed by Yelp or Facebook Places, to which Luedorf returned an invitably vague answer. Overall, Foursquare is “not overly concerned” about such matters because it thinks it holds a special place in the tech world as one of the more successful location apps focused solely on just that: location.

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