The Mobile 15: Our picks for the most innovative companies


photo: Flickr/Foursquare HQ

CEO: Dennis Crowley

Number of employees: More than 130

The business:

Foursquare is a location-based service that helps connect people to places. The app started with check-ins as a game but turned its local information and user data into a recommendation engine. The service also has a feature called Radar that pushes notifications to users when they’re nearby interesting places or friends.

The backstory:

Foursquare was the second location-based service started by Crowley. He sold his first effort, Dodgeball, to Google. Dodgeball, which Google closed in 2009, requires users to text their location to the service, which responded with information on friends and nearby venues. Crowley started Foursquare with Naveen Selvadurai in 2009 as a mobile-app based service designed to help people explore their local surroundings.

The innovation:

Foursquare popularized the idea of check-in services and showed people the utility of a location-based social network. But it wasn’t just for badges and bragging rights. Foursquare was building a sophisticated big data operation that analyzed all the restaurants and businesses a person and their friends visited, and provided recommendations on other places based on their interests, location, time and various other signals. Foursquare takes what it learns about a user and starts matching it to profiles of places.

The plan:

Foursquare is rolling out merchant services, allowing businesses to send free and paid updates to nearby users. For users, it continues to work on being a resource for surfacing and remembering interesting places. There has also been a lot speculation that Foursquare could get into the mobile-payments game at some point.

—Ryan Kim