What Foursquare will do with its $20 million

By Laurie Segall, CNN


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- What does one of the hottest mobile app startups do when it closes a $20 million funding round? Buy chairs.

"We haven't been hiring because we don't have the places to sit people," Foursquare founder and CEO Dennis Crowley said Wednesday of his venture's plan to move to a bigger office. "We have a deep and ambitious road map, we just need people to carry it out."

Venture fund Andreessen Horowitz, and previous investors Union Square and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures invested in Foursquare's second round of funding, which added to the $1.4 million the New York-based startup raised last year. This week's round valued Foursquare at $95 million, pre-investment.

The location-based social network allows users to "check in" to different venues and tout their whereabouts; businesses can use it as a marketing tool to lure in and reward their regulars. Crowley plans to use the new cash to hire more engineers and customer service employees to address the network's growing demands: Foursquare is nearing 1.8 million user mark and adds an average of 15,000 users per day.

Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley fund backed by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and Opsware co-founder Ben Horowitz, chose not to invest in Foursquare during the company's first money hunt. This time, the company's rapid expansion and revenue potential earned it a green light.

"We are very excited about Foursquare's ability to make money in a way where all parties win: users, merchants, venue owners, brand advertisers, and more," Ben Horowitz wrote in his blog. Foursquare is growing faster than social networking site Twitter did at this stage, he noted.

But like Twitter, Foursquare has a business model that's still evolving. The startup plans to expand its marketing partnerships; its current roster includes companies such as Starbucks, Zagat, and Marc Jacobs.

It's rumored that Foursquare has been in acquisition talks with major players like Facebook and Yahoo, but for now Crowley says he intends to continue expanding independently. Crowley's last experience with being bought was famously unhappy: He and partner Alex Rainert sold an earlier mobile-app venture, Dodgeball, to Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) in 2005. The pair quit two years later, calling the fight for resources at Google "incredibly frustrating."

But for now, Foursquare is in celebration mode. Team members headed to their East Village haunt "The Scratcher" Tuesday to commemorate the funding deal, which came just in time for Crowley to head off to South Africa to attend a round of World Cup games.

"I was hoping I'd be able to go," Crowley said, adding that he'd been waiting to see the deal through before jumping on a plane. To top of page

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