Архив метки: Ingrid Lunden

Foursquare Is Doing Big Things, So Existing Investor Spark Capital Buys $50M Of Employee Stock


Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley spent this afternoon in Barcelona, explaining his location company’s potential to Mobile World Conference attendees. Someone else didn’t need to hear the presentation, though. Existing investor Spark Capital is buying $50 million worth of its stock, according to sources, in a deal to provide at least some employees with liquidity.

The result is a valuation north of of the already-impressive $600 million from its last round, I’ve heard. This is even though the company continues to focus on product development instead of trying to maximize revenue.

So what’s making investors excited? Well, the location app appears to be doing a lot of things right, despite the questions some have asked about its still-nascent business model. While Foursquare might not be the biggest social network in the world, the data it does have, and the ecosystem that is growing around it, makes for a promising story.

“Everyone thinks of Foursquare as check-ins and badges,” Crowley said at the conference today. “No, no. We’re recycling data and making recommendations for the real world.”

One example of what Crowley’s talking about here involves Foursquare’s new “Explore” feature, which recently arrived in the company’s mobile applications. Essentially a local recommendations guide, Foursquare Explore allows users to discover nearby restaurants, bars, coffee shops, nightlife spots, and other venues, either by category, name, or even something more specific, like “sushi” or “hamburgers.” The feature taps into Foursquare’s own social graph in order to recommend places your friends have visited and liked, while also providing tips and comments from Foursquare’s wider network. Initially, Explore was limited to making recommendations around your exact location, but with the most recent update, it now allows you to find recommended places anywhere in the world either by moving the map around on the screen or by typing in an exact location.

To date, Foursquare’s 15 million registered users have checked in 1.5 billion times, which in turn has generated rich information about some 750,000 restaurants and other venues. The company is working on creating visualizations of this data on any map, so users can see places nearby that they might want to go.

For businesses, it can break down visitor demographics for individual stores, letting them better tailor their wares to their customers. And, it’s of course also been busy running its coupons via its American Express deal from last year. And for developers, it can provide data via its API, which is already used by popular mobile applications like Instagram and Path.

However, the company only says that “we can’t comment on funding matters.”

And a closing note: TechCrunch writer Ingrid Lunden did an interview with Crowley at MWC today (which is not how we got this story), and she’ll be following this up with another post once she gets off the plane back to London.

Foursquare Is Doing Big Things, So Existing Investor Spark Capital Buys $50M Of Employee Stock

Facebook Mobile Operator Billing Opens App Economy To The Credit Card-less

Facebook Mobile Operator Billing

The mobile web, not the smartphone or traditional web, is Facebook’s most popular interface. Now those hundreds of millions of users, including prepaid mobile customers in emerging markets who lack credit cards, will be able to make in-app purchases and earn Facebook money thanks to its announcement of mobile operator billing for Credits virtual currency purchases.

This is a big step towards Facebook’s monetization of mobile despite smartphone platform domination by Apple and Google. For people without credit cards where Facebook Credits gift cards aren’t available, operator billing won’t just be a convenience, it could become the main way for them to participate in the Facebook mobile app economy.

In a talk with TechCrunch writer Ingrid Lunden this morning, CTO Bret Taylor said that the Facebook mobile web has twice as many users as Facebook for iOS or Android. Those smartphone platforms had roughly 57 million daily active users and 85-100 million monthly active users when Facebook stopped publicly reporting their counts at the end of 2011, indicating Facebook for mobile web could have well over 110 million DAU and 170 million MAU.

Even if only a small percentage of those buy Facebook’s Credits virtual currency through operator billing, operator billing could turn into an important revenue stream for Facebook. Still, Facebook may have to pay a large chunk of its 30% tax on purchases to the operators, and the credit card-less might not have tons of disposable income.

In the US, UK, and other developed markets, teens and those without credit cards buy prepaid Facebook Credits gift cards at retail stores, and redeem them to make in-app purchases. Similarly, prepaid mobile users accessing the Facebook mobile web site could pay cash at a local store to top up their mobile account, and then use their balance to buy Facebook Credits. This means Facebook won’t have to get prepaid Credits gifts cards available world-wide, it can just piggy back on the already ubiquitous mobile refill cards. Users can earn Credits through offers, but high reward offers often require a large credit card or PayPal purchase.

Facebook is working on operator billing deals with AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, Vodafone, KDDI, SOFTBANK MOBILE Corp, and they must be excited. Few have had good luck with their own app platforms, so grabbing a cut of Facebook’s 30% tax on Credits will give them low-effort revenue where they were failing before. If Facebook’s mobile app platform produces sufficient sales, more operators are likely to come calling.

An enlarged population of monetizable users could also make Facebook’s mobile platform more attractive to developers who are already slammed with releasing their apps for iOS and fragmented Android builds. While Facebook tells me it doesn’t view its support of Facebook integrations into HTML5 apps as direct competition with Apple and Google’s platforms, it surely wouldn’t mind developers producing apps for the one platform where it can collect its 30% tax.

The biggest threat Facebook listed in its S-1 to IPO was its inability to monetize mobile. Suddenly mass accessibility via the mobile web doesn’t sound like such a bad alternative to owning a smartphone app platform.

[Image Credit: Time]

Facebook Mobile Operator Billing Opens App Economy To The Credit Card-less