Foursquare City Guide: Why You Should Get On Board!


Seven years after Foursquare launched, I find the app more useful than ever. Usage among my friends is definitely down but a sizable core group uses it consistently and I get a sense that it may be getting rediscovered.

Here’s how I use it:

  • When planning trips: For example, my upcoming week-long scouting trip to Los Angeles has been largely built around Foursquare recommendations.
  • Same thing for my recent Atlanta trip: that’s how we discovered Swan House.

My step-by-step guide on getting the most out of Foursquare when traveling:

  • Click on “Things To Do” and where e.g. Downtown Los Angeles
  • Scroll through some of the categories on top e.g. Historic Sites, Art Galleries (the categories vary based on the city)
  • Set the filter for top ratings.
  • This is how I discovered the Bradbury Building in DTLA, which led me to the LA Conservancy’s Downtown Walking Tour (booked!)

In NYC, I also prefer the Foursquare reviews for restaurants and bars. They most closely reflect my tastes and preferences.

  • Again, recommend starting with the ratings and then check out the most current reviews.
  • Because I value their recommendations, I ALWAYS write one for every place I check into.
  • The only other app that comes close is The Infatuation but they’ve misled me on a couple of restaurants lately so taking a watch and see stance with them
  • Note: if Yelp is your go-to and you like them, Foursquare may not be a good fit.

Foursquare also just launched a new restaurant/bar app called Marsbot.

  • It’s a secret lurker app that sends you notifications about places it thinks you would like based on your history. It’s brand new so hard to judge at the moment but that reco space seems pretty crowded.

For those of you not familiar with Foursquare and Swarm:

  • They’ve had over 11 billion individual check-ins since launch.
  • The number of check-ins per user is up 33% since they split into two apps in 2014: Swarm for check-ins and Foursquare for recommendations/reviews etc.
  • The data from check-ins has been a goldmine for understanding societal shifts and trends in how people move through the world. They’re able to predict random things e.g. the rate at which Filipino food is trending in the U.S., or how international leisure tourism to the U.S. has changed since October 2016.

Also check out this excellent interview with Foursquare founder, Dennis Crowley I love this guy – he’s very responsive, always answers tweets re foursquare. In the interview, he provides great insights on what’s happening with data and location-based software. He also shares the best advice he ever got from his parents about doing a start-up. Spot on!

Dennis has been obsessed with location-based software forever.

  • In 2003 while still at NYU, he launched Dodgeball. It enabled users to text their location and receive notifications about nearby friends or interesting venues. It was acquired by Google in 2005.
  • Foursquare was launched in 2009, to great fanfare, at SXSW. (And entered my life in 2010)
  • It’s everywhere now, powering locations for over 100K developers as well as brands like Apple, Twitter, and Reddit.
  • Foursquare data can predict store sales based on where people are checking in and how long they spend in particular locations.
  • Foursquare’s Pilgrim takes location technology to superpower level. It powers the contextually relevant computing that runs in the background of your apps e.g. it can tell that you are at a specific coffee shop not just at the corner of a nearby street.

What’s the best advice he’s ever received?

  • From his Mom: “Do what you love and the rest will come.” This didn’t make any sense to him in real time, however, it makes total sense in hindsight. He never gave up on working on the problems he liked solving. Eventually, things started to work themselves out.
  • From his Dad: “You can’t eat newspapers!” In the early days, Foursquare used to generate tons and tons and tons of press…all before they were generating any significant revenue. His dad used to tease him about this, but it’s a good reminder that there’s more to making a business work than just getting the name of the company in lights.
  • (NOTE: Every entrepreneur/start up I have spoken to has the same story: they get massive amounts of press when they are making zero money, by the time they have a real business, the media has moved on. This happened to me also.)

What key characteristic makes for a great entrepreneur?

“I think tenacity is key – the ability to keep forging ahead no matter what gets thrown in your way and who or what tries to stop you from building the thing that’s stuck in your head. I think you also need to be ready to sign up for the long haul and the nights and weekends of just plugging away trying to make it work. The legend of “the overnight success that took 8 years to build” is real… and we’re living it now.”

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