Depending on one's view of Foursquare's future prospects, Dennis Crowley's move from CEO to executive chairman is either a sign that the company is ready for its next stage of growth or an indication that it's flailing. In addition to announcing that Crowley is being replaced by former chief operating officer Jeff Glueck, Foursquare said yesterday that it has also closed a new, $45 million round of "growth funding."
Foursquare is a local search and discovery service mobile app that provides search results for its users. Questions about Foursquare's potential for success have been growing since the location intelligence company made an initial big splash with its 2009 launch. Once valued at $760 million at its peak, the company now has a reported valuation of $250 million. And in early 2013, financial analyst firm PrivCo predicted that Foursquare would fail by the end of that year.
Then in 2014, the company split its services into two with the release of Swarm, an app for real-time location sharing and "checking in" to restaurants and other business venues, and a new version of the Foursquare software for location-based place searches. With mapping data on more than 65 million places around the world, Foursquare said the two apps combined currently have more than 50 million monthly users.
'Right Time' for New Leadership
Writing in the company's Foursquare Direct publication on Medium yesterday, Crowley characterized the latest changes as an exciting step toward the next stage of Foursquare's growth.
"With our business maturing and with our enterprise solutions (Places API, Place Insights) and . . . programmatic advertising platform (Pinpoint) fueling our revenue growth, I felt like now is the right time to put our strongest executives in the company's top leadership positions," Crowley said. He added that it was his decision to ask Glueck (pictured) to step into the CEO role, as well as to tap previous CRO (chief revenue officer) Steven Rosenblatt as "Jeff's co-pilot" in the president's position.
Crowley added that his new role as executive chairman will enable him to focus full-time on vision and innovation, long-term strategy and creating new consumer products.
"If this sounds more like my job from 2010 than my job from 2015 . . . well, that's the point," he said. "It frees up my time from operational and management duties and allows me get back to the 'let's just make something awesome that people love' spirit that got us here."
In a tweet on his Twitter feed today, Glueck noted that "Much coverage of @foursquare missed point; ldrshp team new structure initiated by @dens [Dennis Crowley's Twitter handle] to scale real traction in enterprise/media."
Next Challenge: Translating Assets into Profits
Hyoun Park, chief research officer at Blue Hill Research, told us that the new $45 million round of funding means that Foursquare's investors are "focusing the company directly on making money quickly." He compared the accompanying executive suite changes to those made by Facebook when that company brought in Sheryl Sandberg as chief operating officer in 2008.
"Although it's unfair to compare Jeff Glueck, or anyone else, to Sheryl Sandberg, it is safe to say that Foursquare is taking a similar step of prioritization in figuring out how to maximize the present value of technologies supported in Foursquare, Swarm, and back-end big data assets associated with user behavior," Park said, adding that the change in roles could not have been an easy step for Dennis Crowley.
Park noted that Crowley's past experience includes seeing Dodgeball -- an earlier location-based company founded by Crowley and Alex Rainert in 2000 -- ultimately crushed after being sold to Google. Purchased by Google in 2005, Dodgeball was replaced in 2009 by Google Latitude, which itself came to an end in 2013.
"[U]ltimately, Crowley and the executive team made this decision because it was the correct step for Foursquare," Park said. "Foursquare maintains both a sizable mobile footprint and a vast library of client and venue data. Now, their big challenge is how to make the incremental changes to translate these digital assets into profitable endeavors."