Some Thoughts On Foursquare

Our portfolio company Foursquare closed a second round of financing yesterday. This was a much covered financing process and also much criticized. I think it makes an excellent case to talk about some conventional notions and why they might not be right.

Back in the early spring Foursquare decided that it needed to raise more money to support its growth, both service growth/scaling and team growth. Foursquare identified about a half dozen venture firms that it thought would be ideal investors and opened discussions with them. A few backed out of the process because they had investments in competing businesses. But all of the other firms were eager to make an investment. The Company could have closed a financing at a very attractive valuation in two or three weeks if they had chosen to.

But as they kicked off the financing process, a fair bit of acquisition interest in the company materialized. So the founders made the decision to dig into what those transactions might look like. They spent the better part of the spring doing that and eventually determined that staying independent was the best thing for the service, the user base, the team, and the shareholders (pretty much in that order).

All of this was conducted in the glare of the public eye as the tech blogs and tech focused media was quite interested in how this story would play out. Kara Swisher called it "a very long and decidedly strange funding journey" in a blog post yesterday. She also said "the wrapping-up of what has been a very convoluted funding process comes after a series of missteps and switchbacks over what’s next for Foursquare."

I have great respect for Kara, who is one of the best journalists working in the tech sector, but I think she and many others who have voiced these sorts of criticisms are wrong.

The Company started this process when they had sufficient funds in the bank to operate the business for six months. They were not in a hurry and there was no need for any kind of interim bridge financing as Kara's post suggests. So closing the financing quickly, which is often advised as the best approach, was not necessary and in hindsight, the founders were wise to take their time.

The conversations with potential acquirers were very beneficial to the founders and the company in many ways. It helped them to understand what the risks of going it alone were versus the risks of selling. And both have risks if you are thinking about the service, the users, the team, and the shareholders (in that order). And it allowed the founders to develop close working relationships with some of the most important Internet companies who can not only be acquirers but also distribution partners and monetization partners.

I am a big believer in making quick decisions on most things. But on some things a bit of deliberation is important. In this case, the founders walked away from what Ben Horowitz from Andreessen Horowitz calls "generations of your people being set financially." Ben is also quoted in that same TechCrunch post saying "It is a really cathartic and emotional decision to make." Those kinds of decisions are best left unforced by the founders and the people around them.

In the end, the Company got a great financing with a great group of investors, including our firm, and now has the resources to invest in scaling the service, the team, and building out the feature set to make checking in an even better experience than it is today. 

So the moral of this story, if you will, is don't let conventional wisdom force you into making decisions you don't need to make and you aren't ready to make, particularly about very big decisions that you will be living with the rest of your life.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    curious if you’re generally OK with portfolio companies basing large financial decisions which affect you and USV using the same priority list that Foursquare did?the service ==> the user base ==>the team ==>the shareholdersI know in the long-run if you look after the first 3 the last one will look after itself, but still….

    1. fredwilson

      entrepreneurs are the raw material of the venture capital businesswe make money when they make moneywe’d prefer to see all of them stay independent and build large businessesif that is possiblebut we know that we have to support them and their decisionsbecause if you don’t, you will get a reputation as hostile to entrepreneursand that is a recipe for death in the venture business

      1. Bora Celik

        I’m happy to see this order: “the service, the user base, the team, and the shareholders”.I believe the interest of customers should always come before the interest of shareholders.

        1. SF

          That is *so* not what my Finance 101 professor used to say. :)It just so happens that in this case, at this stage of foursquare existence, user base satisfaction and growth is in shareholder interest more than getting their investment and return on it back. As others pointed out, it probably makes more sense to admit that at this stage for foursquare’s existence there is not much shareholder value without the service and user base (not clear if they are even customers yet).Fred’s reply to your comment is also interesting – for *his* shareholders USV reputation with its customers (start-ups) is a driver for returns to a larger extent than any particular exit that would tarnish that reputation.It was also curious to me that “service” came before “user base” in the list. I wonder if that is because the service is what drives user base satisfaction and growth right now, and not the other way around. These may change as the product matures.

          1. ShanaC

            It’s a user driven product. if you are a service based product, you are driven by the needs of the user on some basic level so your service needs to be kept in tip top shape otherwise the users will abandon you.It’s like finding mice in the four seasons. You can’t do that in a luxury hotel- it degrades the meaning of a luxury hotel.

    2. Mark Essel

      My head likes to meld some users and some workers into one team level.Putting troublesome customers before loyal team members is not sustainable

      1. Peter Beddows

        Mark: Your observation reminds me of what my father used to say, quote: “life would be so much easier if we did not have to worry about customers!”

        1. Mark Essel

          :)I could be wrong, but I think the best companies treat their (best/loyal?) customers as team members, and their team members as equals. My thoughts are in this post from last year

          1. Peter Beddows

            No, you are right IMHO: My father’s comment was tongue in cheek; family knew perfectly well without customers (read without sales) nothing happens and that has been my mantra with every client our business have ever served.Also worth bearing in mind, as Fred and so many other contributors here, including yourself, have variously observed over time, unless you are creating and providing value, you simply are not in business; “value”, naturally, being value only as perceived in the eyes of the target audience. Thus any attitude of unresponsiveness towards customers can only backfire and ultimately kill your business hence your customers have to be treated as if they are your best friends because that is exactly what they are when they are your customers.Foursquare appears to have recognised that fact in what they have already compiled as a service and in what they appear to intend for their service going ahead. Terrific that they still have direct control, their vision and enthusiasm has been recognised and, as Fred suggests, encouraged by securing this additional funding and now that they have this funding they have all the resources necessary to keep building on the momentum already achieved ~ a terrific result with tremendous potential. I’m excited for them and I’m not even invested in them.

  2. Orrin Xu

    Firstly, congrats! 4sqr is just picking up in popularity here in Australia, but its user base is exploding especially with aggressive marketing done by the 4 telcos.In my opinion, all decisions involving large sums of money should never be rushed. These days, a lot of people have bucket loads of cash stashed away. However they may not be aligned with your vision and thats whats important.The great thing even though they may not be right, these journalists provide an extra voice of criticism to make sure you’re on the right track.

    1. Benjamin Bloom

      Orrin, would you happen to have links to some of the AUS Telco marketing or promotions? The app model for the iPhone and Android made being on the telco’s mobile “deck” less of a relevant entry barrier in recent years.It’s been fun to watch the insight slowly dawn on Motorola and Verizon (in the US) that great apps are a huge usage driver- and in their campaigns I wonder if they are they enabling or promoting the right things? Is it enough for them to support the platform, or is it incumbent up on them to build great apps themselves?I love looking at ways different players approach this.

      1. Orrin Xu

        I have a link from a forum i frequent regularly Australian Telcos have been pretty on the ball with these sort of things, introducing free facebook last year so people don’t have to pay for data costs. With the inclusion of most social networks in these new caps, I can see more people checking out 4sqr, gowalla and other social services here in australia.Costs are much higher here in australia so these kind of marketing techniques work well whereas places like singapore and the US have cheap data costs and people are more likely to add on data plans. At least thats my impression

  3. harpos_blues

    Fred,As always this post is very useful. I’m a big fan of careful deliberation, when the situation merits. Sadly, the corporate culture does not always appreciate introspection or reflection whether it’s a start-up or big enterprise. The current notion of “rapid response”, and an emphasis on breadth vs. depth can lead to errors in judgement that have significant downstream consequences.Off-topic: The new blog layout is really appealing and very east to read. Though I miss the green — it was just so “Fred”.

    1. fredwilson

      i miss the green tooit is my favorite color

      1. Mark Essel

        Green and blue are why city living would be rough for me

        1. andyswan

          It takes a lot of green to live in the city without getting blue.

          1. Mark Essel

            Poetic and true.Your neighborhood isn’t too shabby (your pic of your neighbor up to something)

          2. andyswan

            No it’s very nice. We love it.He’s a classic. Invented the “shrink wrap” that they use on pallets of goods. Livin the dream with alllllll the toys haha

          3. fredwilson

            i turned my older brother onto pappy last night andy

          4. andyswan

            That just made my day.

  4. kagilandam

    Congrats to FourSquare (FS) team. And I really like this statement and FS if it really means what it says “staying independent was the best thing for the service, the user base, the team, and the shareholders (pretty much in that order).”… it is true that if first 2-are taken care the rest 2-will get better and better.

    1. fredwilson

      the older i get, the more i believe that is true

  5. Adrian Scott

    Congrats and thanks for posting some details about the process.

  6. Harry DeMott

    Ain’t it always the case? If people want something – they push to get you to make a decision to go that way. Sell to us. Take our financing. We can get you to the next level. Etc… I’m not sure how much sway your firm or the other venture investor in the deal had in talking with the team – but I’m quite sure that Dennis’ previous experience selling to Google had a lot to do with his thinking on how he wanted to develop the company, the service and the team over time. I’ve said it before here and I’ll say it again – if you can earn the right to remain independent and control your own destiny there is nothing stronger. Congrats on the financing – there’s a ton of opportunities there.

    1. fredwilson

      that is exactly right harry

  7. Mark Essel

    I for one, would like to see how far that team can go without early acquisition.Tough decision when it could be life changing for some early employees, and they could end up empty handed (I wouldn’t bet against them πŸ™‚

  8. andyswan

    I’m not sure which is the bigger win:1) Getting “extreme” funding from a great group of firms2) Avoiding the “here’s a lot of money now INTEGRATE with our titanic firm” buyoutor3) Driving the armchair CEOs of the world insane

    1. fredwilson

      i just liked this comment andyit’s fantastic

    2. RichardF

      really like point 3

    3. Fred T

      very good points, Andy. they did bear the epitome of disruption. airbnb did the same thing but seemed they pulled some unwanted strings.amongst all those intuitive points, i wonder which of themhappens by order first (rule of thumb for inspired companies)

  9. Dan Ramsden

    I’m noticing a lot of “customer and entrepreneur first, shareholder last” undertone in the comments, and I can understand how the former in the long term leads to good things for the latter. By the same token, I wonder if at this particular point in time, which is a very particular and unusual point in capital markets generally and VC specifically, I wonder if the interest of shareholders should get a higher ranking… The dynamic does go both ways, and without happy shareholders both customers and entrepreneurs lose.

    1. Aaron Klein

      The right kind of shareholders appreciate being last, knowing that gives them the highest probability of getting the outcome they want.

      1. Dan Ramsden

        Well, then there must be a lot of appreciating going on among VCs these days. How is that working out for entrepreneurs looking to raise capital?

      2. Evan

        strangely, this comment got posted as I was viewing the thread, and Disqus also emailed it to me at the same time, even though I haven’t commented or liked anything.sounds like a disqus bug.

        1. Aaron Klein

          wow, I have special Disqus powers πŸ˜‰

          1. Evan

            apparently so, because when i returned to the thread to reply…your comment (and mine) had disappeared. so i’m sending this reply in byemail.

  10. howardlindzon

    well played. great stuff. great execution so far.

  11. JimHirshfield

    Different isn’t always better. But better is always different. IOW, great to see innovative companies not succumbing to pressure to sell early or raise funds in a format or timeframe that media and industry expect. Congrats to USV and 4sq team!

  12. jeffyablon

    Fred, when we get past the self-serving nature of your comment (“the people running this company I’ve now invested in twice aren’t as stupid as you all think they are”), I have to agree.Not being privy to the term sheet they agreed to yesterday or the one from their initial funding round, I don’t know how much control they’ve given their investors. I’m sure, though, that they still get to play with their baby; in a sale, they’d have lost that.It does call into question the great big game of chicken they’re playing when there are gazillions of dollars on the table that might not be there when they want them to be, but . . . hey, that’s why you’re a VC, right?Jeff YablonPresident & CEOAnswer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant ServicesAnswer Guy and Virtual VIP on Twitter

    1. fredwilson

      wow, i am sorry that you took that post as self servingthat was not how i wanted it to be readvery upsetting to hear that

  13. bojanbabic

    I think that @dens in unique in industry. I’m trying to understand financing round .USV did not lead this round. Did you do your pro-rata ? I guess this is related to USV fund size …

    1. fredwilson

      we did more than our pro-rata. we are very excited to be able to invest more in the company

  14. RichardF

    Great news for Foursquare. An extremely brave decision if the rumours are true that Facebook were one of the suitors. I doubt that Yahoo would have been a very good fit for Foursquare.Great opportunity for Dennis to work with Ben as well.

    1. Joe Siewert

      Agreed. I’m happy to see the service continuing on its own for now as I think they have a great vision for what they want it to be. They must have been thinking about the outcomes of the dodgeball/Google acquisition too. Especially with the stakes being higher now.

  15. Shyam Subramanyan

    I believe Foursquare did the right thing for the company and customers. Only time will tell whether they did the right thing for the team and investors. Most acquisitions at this level by larger companies that is looking to fill a gap, end up in an alley because users get turned off (Flickr is an exception?). Good luck to everyone involved!

  16. Fernando Gutierrez

    Having to choose between selling and getting funding must be difficult, but it must be great to have to make that kind of decision.Maybe things go wrong in the future (hope not), but they will always have the badge of having built it till the end. That wouldn’t pay the bills, but it would bring new opportunities for sure.

  17. Morgan Warstler

    A small personal plea: Please ask Foursquare to incent user base to document all happy hours deals in their town.I’m dying for an app that at any given time / gps, tells me where the cheap drinks and bar snacks are nearest me. You’d think yelp would have this figured, no such luck.

    1. Joe Siewert

      Great idea.

    2. Mark Essel

      I think we can arrange a variant of that with a different flavor of garagedollar

    3. Prokofy

      Well, happy hour isn’t what I’m interested in personally, but I want Foursquare to have more pizzazz in it too like I want it to talk to me and say “hey, you know that place you’ve checked in to? it’s having a sale on Coke 2/$7.00” etc.Foursquare still feels to me like I’m walking a virtual city and not a real life city.

      1. Morgan Warstler

        My thing is 4quare ought to use game mechanics to build out information and services.I could care less who “checks in” most that’s 1 point. The guy who types in the entire happy hour menu? that’s 10 points.Now we’ve got a valuable piece of information unavailable anywhere else, that people need to use 4square for even if they’re aren’t game players.Points for total spending also makes sense, each bar / restaurant needs a loyalty program anyway.

  18. Indus Khaitan

    Decisions like these are very point-in-time. Foursquare’s team & their investors are both an amazing combo. I hope the decision to remain independent builds a very large company and allows the users with a continuous, non-disrupted UX and … yeah, gives a windfall to the founders, employees and investors!Indus

  19. Zachary Adam Cohen

    FredCongrats on the new round. I do believe you’ve made a wise investment. That being said, I think this post would have been more instructive had you started from the premise of the critics might be getting right. I think going through them one by one, debunking using the thinking behind your initial and now continued investment in Foursquare, as rebuttals. As it is, the blog post above is just praise for Foursquare and your own thinking.I was an early adopter of Foursquare. Used it since April of 2009 very heavily. A few weeks ago I woke up and decided to stop checking in. I asked myself why I was doing this. I really wasn’t getting anything out of it. I wasn’t getting free meals, or drinks, even though I was the mayor of many places over the past year, 90% of the businesses didn’t even know what Foursquare was, or if they did, they had no idea how to market themselves on it and certainly weren’t getting any direction from the company. As to finding and locating my friends on it, the serendipity aspect is truly overestimated. When i want to see friends, I see friends. I can find where they are and where they will be.Anyway, I do wish you luck here, I just hope that Foursquare doesn’t become emblematic of the social media bubble.Z

    1. kenberger

      Great points, I can see how it would appear that way now.They have a TON to build and execute. I think you’ll see a LOT happening soon, on the opposite end of the check-in side. From my getting to know this team from very early on, here’s what I’d predict you can expect:1. So far it’s been about putting out a product that entices enough users passionately enough to contribute a critical mass of data.2. Then/now they have to maintain the exploding service so it doesn’t collapse– while raising VC. Now that the raise is complete they can focus on #3…3. Next is to have the collected data and presented in meaningful ways that will add value back to the venues, businesses, and end users. And you can be sure there is immeasurable value to be mined from that, while preserving privacy, etc.I can’t wait to be a recipient.

      1. Joe Siewert

        Points 2 and 3 have to be their top priorities, but they also need to stay focused on 1 with maintaining a passionate user base. Tricky to execute on all of this for sure. I’d still like to see some improvements with the SMS check-in, but I know SMS check-ins are a small part of the user base. Here’s my current wish list:

      2. ShanaC

        3 is important- they need to expand on end user cases. One of my friends uses it just as a place to keep track where he has been of only places he likes. It’s like his online diary of short reviews.Keeping people enticed through expanding their understanding what their users are using foursquare for. There was a comment by Zachary Adam Cohen that he stopped using it- finding tangible value comes from finding how people are not using your product as expected so that things will happen to people on the margins as well.

    2. Joe Siewert

      You bring up great points Zachary. I’ve been having similar thoughts recently too where it doesn’t seem like we’re getting much out of the check-in. As kenberger mentions though, they have a lot to build and execute and have a great foundation to do it from. I think we’ll continue seeing a lot of rapid innovation over the next year.

      1. Zachary Adam Cohen

        its clear the strategy has been build the user base, first second and third. There hasn’t been a major version update since SXSW and I also think that they need to update more often.But yeah, I am not currently getting anything of tangible value out of Foursquare anymore, which is why I’ve stopped using it. Actually I do use it to find addresses as its usually a bit faster than google maps on my iPhone, but I don’t check in.They need to be incentivizing people directly to check in. And i want a loyalty program built into Foursquare or them to buy the firm that is doing that. If I check into a restaurant 10 times in a year, i want something. I don’t care who gives it to me. This isn’t exactly how I feel, I don’t really want anything at all, i like to pay for my services, but I think that the mainstream user isnt going to adopt until Foursquare directly incentivizes or manages a well executed loyalty program. Like i said, i don’t care WHO pays for it.Z

    3. fredwilson

      i am sorry if you read this post as praise of my own thinking. that is a terrible thing and something i don’t ever want to have on this blogyour criticisms of foursquare are on the money. i wish i could show your their roadmap, but of course i can’t. they have a bunch of copycats out there who are replicating their every move

      1. Zachary Adam Cohen

        Hey Fred, Thanks for the comment. No it didn’t read like you were praising yourself at all. Have a great day. For some reason when I first read the post I said to myself, man this would have been a funky little piece if he had taken the opposite task.Have a great day and a wonderful holidayZ

  20. Antone Johnson

    Great post. In my experience, entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs because they want to control their own destiny. The type of person who achieves greatness as an entrepreneur chafes at the bureaucracy, rigidity, chain of command and limits set by large organizations. Set them free to build a product and a business, creating value for customers, employees and shareholders, and everyone wins. When you sell, you lose most of that freedom. Once the startup becomes a division or unit or subsidiary of BigCorp, for true entrepreneurs, it’s not a question of whether to leave; it’s just a matter of when.Although founders can reap large financial rewards from selling, there’s much more at stake than money. It’s a huge decision that shouldn’t be forced; on the other side of this issue, I’m reminded of Mark Suster’s great blog post about the insanity of VCs blocking a good exit. Forcing the decision in either direction leads to a sub-optimal outcome IMHO. I’m glad the Foursquare founders had the time and latitude to make a carefully considered decision.

  21. brmore

    Maybe slightly off topic, but why 20MM? Why not 15MM or 25MM? Is there a formulaic way to arrive at this number or is that what people were offering? Is this the number based on anticipated burn that will give us xx months/years of cushion?Not meant to be snide, I hope it doesn’t come across that way, but as I former boot-strapper (modest exit) these topics are on my mind. How DO you come up with “the number”?

    1. Mark Essel

      I saw a good video with Mark Suster & Jason Calcanis talking about perceived values/rounds recently. It’s heavy guess work, and both parties trying to get the best valueSorry I don’t have the link handy at the moment, but I think Mark mentioned it on his blog.

    2. fredwilson

      anticipated burn x months of runway they want to have

  22. kenberger

    It’s fun to think that Fred and Ben just recently debated onstage about Fat vs Lean startups.Now they get to work together and maybe come up with some sort of low-carb middle model.

    1. reece

      I was wondering if someone would mention this!Somehow, I think they knew they’d be working together during that debate already.Powerful combo – USV A-round, AH B-round.I hope this plays out big for NYC. No pressure. πŸ˜‰

      1. fredwilson

        yeah, i respect him so much. i am sure that was evident when we were on stage

  23. Aviah Laor

    “don’t let conventional wisdom force you into making decisions you don’t need to make and you aren’t ready to make, particularly about very big decisions that you will be living with the rest of your life”.Started with avc, ended with the monster in your head.Unlike this acquisition vs. more funding decision, not all important decisions say: “look here, I’m a decision that you are going to live with the rest of your life, so think well”

    1. fredwilson

      jerry got into my head many years ago and he’s still there

  24. Randygiusto

    Fred,I think the easy thing to do is sell out. Most VCs and investors especially E.Coast ones don’t let E.Coast startups last long enough to really build a significant brand. They’re all about exit strategy first and selling to Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo!, etc. W.Coast investors tend to allow their portfolio companies to live longer and build a bigger brand presence before being acquired.There’s a road strewn w/startups exiting early to big brands that then produced marginal integration and execution results ending in customers and the service/product suffering in the end (like someone said, “except for Flickr’). Dennis and team obviously learned a lot from the buyout interest, and that’s future distribution gold to be mined. It’s nice to see the investors also give more freedom to the team. I’ve seen a backlash in the entrepreneurial community here in Boston (especially among serial entrepreneurs) to focus more on friends and family and Angel money rather than VC term sheets. Or at least find the right VC that allows them to grow rather than take the reigns.As you pointed out, Just because the team “could have been set for life” doesn’t mean they passed an opportunity that won’t return.

    1. fredwilson

      Randyyou bring up a good point about east coast companies selling out too soonbut it is the entrepreneurs, not the VCs who make those choicesthe idea that VCs decide when to sell is only true when the company is in troubleon the successful companies, it is the entrepreneurs who decide when to selli believe the main reason NYC has no Google, Cisco, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon to point to is this very issuewe have one, Bloomberg, a huge privately held company started by our mayori hope he can be a role model to entrepreneurs about how to think longer term

      1. Megan Cunningham

        Way to engage with a serious hot button silicon alley issue! πŸ˜‰ I agree with this assessment and never thought about it quite that way. I would also note that as someone who’s run a privately held bootstrapped company in NYC for 10 years and who (prior to this company) had a fast-exit from a successful startup, the cost of living factors into the temptation for exits. Not to say the Bay Area can’t be costly but there’s not the same upward-mobility expectation from peers -hamptons, high fashion wardrobe, etc.

        1. Peter Beddows

          Really Megan? “Not to say the Bay Area can’t be costly but there’s not the same upward-mobility expectation from peers -hamptons, high fashion wardrobe, etc.” WHAT? Unbelievable; sorry!I know the ‘Hamptons’ and Manhattan/NYC as well as the SF Bay Area; I’m also familiar with the Arts and Fashion as well as with bleeding-edge technology and the people. I would have to say that there is every bit as much “upward mobility” pressure and desire in the SF area with the only possible exception of the ‘fashion’ element because we are much less ‘formal’ and more avant-garde on the West Coast as a rule.For example, if you had any idea of where Ellison and many others at his level of success live or had any awareness of places like Tiburon never mind the high end in SF where even a tiny apartment can be relatively equally as exorbitant as any equivalent in Manhattan – if you can even find one – and all of these areas are very highly desirable, then I would have to suggest that the ‘cost of living factoring into the temptation for exits’ is no less and may actually be even more on the West Coast where an even greater temptation exists in the context that, after being in one successful venture, a hunger now exists to leap into the next venture in the urge for realizing even further success as quickly as possible because that has been the typical track record for a significant proportion of ventures started here in Silicon Valley.

    2. Mat

      i am curious about one thing. I am in the middle of raising a large round of financing from angels and PE funds. Was there an increase in salaries for den and original crew based on financing, We are bringing on people on this sead round and trying to figure out if our people (including myself) move from no salary to 6 figures to market salary based on what we have done already. I really believe that if your pay yourself the right amount you can move the company further because you dont worry about how your going to live especially in nyc. I paid myself nothing in the 90’s and feel i learned a harsh lesson on my first tech startup.

  25. dbiz

    Thrilled you will be at Geo-Loco on 7/21! Now if we could only get someone from FS….

  26. Venkat

    Something doesn’t compute for me. On the FourSquare blog, they say that just over a year ago they raised a $1.35 million Series A and now, with 27 employees, just got this $20 million Series B.Even assuming they hired most of the 27 late in the game, that seems like an almost incredibly efficient burn rate. And given the growth trajectory and QoS they seem to have maintained, I am guessing the hiring was not all recent.If they really ARE this efficient, I’d like to steal their playbook. Can you do a post on how to properly estimate and benchmark burn rates, and run as lean as possible (or get one of ’em to guest post)? I assume it is partly driven by what minimum-viable-product means for a given application?I think a lot of people, like me, could use some detailed case studies on lean startup models for consumer Web products/services. The ideas seem to have mostly been developed in the context of enterprise, and porting is not easy.

    1. Mark Essel

      Good point on efficiency, let’s look at the math.Say on average 14 people for the year. I think it’s more likely 2->4->8.. with hiring ramping as the year went on (great people have networks of other talented folks they can tap for incredible opportunities). It’s efficient money, but no magic or quiet bridges would be necessary (the details are unknown).

    2. fredwilson

      they were three when we invested the $1.35mm and they were 14 three months ago (more or less)they absolutely made it almost a year on that $1.35mm

  27. Keenan

    “Time” is the true judge of decisions.

  28. Evan

    i realized today that USV isn’t part of the NVCA. googling didn’t reveal any reasons there a story here?

    1. fredwilson

      this was not written about the NVCA, but about my thinking about lobbyists more broadly…

      1. Evan

        i remember that post. to be honest, when I read it, I thought, “hownaive.” i seem to remember Bill Gates uttering very similar words in themid-90sLobbying is a big part of any trade association, though maybe they have aperception problem as well as a free-rider problem.

  29. Matt A. Myers

    I feel like saying congrats to Dennis. It’s all pretty scary to me. It’s not a transparent process, and I’m so far away from realizing my plans to the stage Foursquare is currently at. The shell of it all looks perfect and fairy-tale like, exactly where a founder wants to be. Kudos to everyone involved in making it successful.Regarding the $20m Series-B funding – it just makes sense. Foursquare has traction and now their plan is to expand before Facebook or others could potentially slow their own growth from major competition and put themself in a better position to merge or be acquired – this is likely especially since Ben Horowitz is investing and that seems to be the kind of thing he likes to put his money into. I’m fairly sure the $100m rumoured offer from Yahoo would be real too. Imagine reaching 100,000,000 daily users and making $0.25 to $1 per user per day – puts the valuation a little higher then eh? Even 1 cent per day per user isn’t too shabby.I’m not sure why people would think they didn’t know what they were doing, as Fred mentioned. The fact that they’re taking more money instead of selling to me shows they still know better and can go it on their own.I’m taking some time off from posting here, mostly for more personal time. Thinking too much about my projects. I’ve done seven yoga classes in the past three days. It’s helped though my brain just keeps working through things that are able to come up with the peace of mind I reach with certain issues… hopefully I won’t have too many things to work through though. I’m doing more ‘gourmet cooking’ too – however the chicken korma I attempted tonight was a bit of a disaster taste wise.I will miss reading many of the witty, smart, intelligent, humourous comments on here – but it’s plenty to look forward to returning to if I reach where I want to be before being a regular again.

    1. ShanaC

      We’ll miss you- keep in touch.

    2. fredwilson

      good luck with your “time off” Yoga Matt

  30. ShanaC

    mazel Tov to foursquare. I read their post about this process. I think for them and what they seem to want to do, they made a good decision. I guess it is now time to get crunked, as they say. It’s a very different sort of explanation- that post is a sort of journey post of how they got where they are now- this post is sort of a defense.The question I have is why aren’t these two posts switched. Granted, I think this makes for a better story and better pr for all involved, yet still…

  31. William Mougayar

    That’s a great insider story. And I wished there were more real stories like that, and less speculative reporting about what really goes on. In this case, Foursquare was definitely in the driver’s seat and could afford to be in that enviable position of choosing. Someone wrote this or told me “it’s better to be bought, than sold”. Money in the bank, huge user validation, etc…- all these big factors allow you to sit pretty and pick and choose your partners.

  32. Prokofy

    I don’t understand what this is about so I can’t have an opinion on it, other than to note that it sounds like the usual tech start-up that has no business plan and needs to live on VC cash.I downloaded this for free on my Droid phone which I very reluctantly got (long story). I thought it might be a fun game. But it didn’t deliver enough messages or coupons or *stuff* to me in the first 3 hours I played it. Then I couldn’t figure out how to quickly make the place I chose be a place to check in. Then like so many services it forced me to pick my friends from Twitter and Facebook and gmail (which I hate), when what I wanted to do was go to a place and see my existing RL neighbours and friends listed as being at that place and then click and friend them. Maybe I’m missing a trick here on how to do that.