However, there is much more to Foursquare than just being another platform to engage bleary eyed students, tech – enthusiasts or common people. Recently it raised funds through debt financing to further propel its growth plans. While all of this may show that there is value to be garnered, I have some points to ponder:
1. ROI : Yes, its the ‘word’ for anyone in social media. Foursquare in its 4 years of existence has received $110 Million in financing. Out of these venture capitalists have powered up to $70 Million. But, if you look back at the total revenue for last year, Foursquare made just $2 Million!
2. Valuation: It’s paramount to check for decent valuations and projections/forecasts for the firm you wish to invest in. According to estimates, Foursquare was valued at $600 Million. This just baffles me.
3. Growth Life-cycle: Typically any platform such as this goes through the following stages:
- Introduction: Pitch/Launch at a influential event. The way Twitter did back in ’07, Foursquare was launched in SXSW ’09
- Steep Growth: Backed by early adopters and influential base, there is an exponential growth that is seen
- Monetization: Logically, the next step where you begin to reap monetary benefits out of the base you have acquired
- Quick Exit: If there is any hint/indication of the platform not growing further, the plug is pulled out quick enough for a painless exit.
From these stages, we can see that Foursquare has crossed step 2 in a sluggish way. They are still trying to crack monetization. The main playing field they have is 50 Million data points, through which they can get marketers to put ads and target users based on their location. I guess by using this as an API they should be able to reap some benefits. Currently the total user base is estimated at 30 Million (actual active users are unknown)
4. Funding Options: Now the reason why they had to go for Debt Financing? From my basic finance course back at the B-School, entities typically tend to go for equity/VC funding. The risk of paying back is much less, plus the valuations on sheet look good. Debt is the route taken up when all other modes fade. So, does this indicate at a lower valuation or estimates being revised downwards?
5. Gamification Vs Review App: The gamification part comprises of earning points everytime you check – in. If you’re a mayor, flash around your coin and earn goodies at your favorite restaurant. Else you’re engaged by earning badges. However, Foursquare wants you to leave tips which serve a tiny reviews for the place you’re at. Be it a tourist spot, restaurant, bus stop or the daily commute train station, you can simply leave your tip to guide others around. I don’t think Foursquare should take up this route as there are several other popular apps that serve the purpose. Its important to differentiate their offering here.
So my personal take? I think Foursquare is here to stay if they crack the monetization bit. It’s also crucial that they don’t take that objective to the hilt like Facebook. While its lovingly designed in NY and SF, it will take a lot more to get the love from users all across the world!