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December 7, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Dive Into Mobile: Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley

SAN FRANCISCO — Less than two years after it launched its mobile-social service, Foursquare has sorted out its product development system and grown to 40 employees.

The New York-based startup has 40 employees, 4 million users and $20 million in funding — enough to make it until the end of 2011, co-founder and Chief Executive Dennis Crowley said at the Dive Into Mobile conference.

Crowley said the game mechanics the service is based upon — rewarding users with virtual badges for checking into various places — were initially “designed to keep people enthralled for maybe a month or so,” to get users to join the company’s social network.

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“We didn’t think it would blow up into what it is now,” he told host Kara Swisher.

Now the company’s looking into different game mechanics it can introduce and feeding its data to developers building their own applications, such as a service that sends e-mails when the mix of males to females at a bar or club tilts in the user’s favor.

The company’s also refining the tools it offers to enterprise customers such as Starbucks and Sports Authority.

“Under the hood it’s like a stats engine,” Crowley said.

Crowley said the company is also looking at ways to provide users with real-world rewards, creating a digital version of the bartender who recognizes regulars and gives a free drink or the restaurant owner who comes over to shake loyal customers’ hands.

“There’s an opportunity to reproduce some of that with software,” he said.

Foursquare isn’t profitable yet. Crowley said the company wants to first sort out how it’s going to work with local merchants “and then pull levers” to start making money.

Crowley’s probably not in a big rush. He sold his last company, Dodgeball, to Google in 2005.

Swisher suggested that he call his next venture Tetherball.

Comments | More in | Topics: D conference, Dennis Crowley, Dive Into Mobile

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