Respecting the past, embracing the future

A letter from David Shim, outgoing Foursquare CEO, reflecting on 2020

David Shim

I started one of Foursquare’s last company meetings of 2019 with the quote, “change is inevitable, growth is optional.” As we close out 2020, this quote couldn’t be truer for Foursquare. What is different from the start of the year is the declaration that “Foursquare chose growth.”

Starting 2020, Foursquare had a strong tailwind with our first profitable quarter in Q4 2019; I had been named CEO with a singular focus on growth in products, customers, revenue, and profitability, while preserving our unwavering commitment to privacy. Through January and February, we began Q1 with exceeding goals, with the investment that we put into acquiring Placed in 2019 paying early dividends in 2020. As competitors started to stall, Foursquare continued to invest in innovation to deliver against the promise of being the undisputed leader in location.

This narrative became more real in January 2020 at CES. Sitting outside for dinner alongside Gil Elbaz, Rob Jonas, and Bill Michels of Factual, we discussed the opportunities ahead in location and the fact that the ecosystem could support many players, but there could only be one leader. The chance to collaborate to build the definitive platform in location with the #1 products across audience (Factual), attribution (Placed), and SDK and places of interest (Foursquare) was too compelling to not move forward with a merger.

As the discussions with Factual neared a conclusion in March, the elephant in the room decided to bring its entire herd with it in the form of COVID-19. It would have been easy for Foursquare and Factual to pause discussions in the face of uncertainty as many other companies pulled back. In our case, the opportunity was so compelling that with or without COVID-19, this was the right decision. Both Gil and I took it a step further by personally investing in the round, to show our commitment to and excitement in the combination.

Post-merger, we dealt with the unexpected loss of a dear colleague and friend, Alex Zendejas, who I wanted to take a moment to remember because he changed the lives of many with his huge heart, bright personality — and a distinct passion for project management, JIRA and Asana to boot. Alex’s legacy will live on in the company, products, and people at Foursquare.

All the while, we faced the challenges of a world that wasn’t leaving their homes, which had material impact on the business. But, thanks to the tremendous talent, dedication and unity of our employees, we kept our focus on seeing through the vision of the merger, completing the bulk of the integration within the first 100 days, while collaborating as an entirely remote new team.

There is so much to acknowledge and pay tribute to in this unprecedented year. These are just a few of the highlights:

  • Starting in Q3 2020, delivered one of the most impressive business bounces in the pandemic and returning to and then exceeding pre-COVID revenue numbers across almost all business lines
  • Became the first location company to receive accreditation to measure store visits from the Media Rating Council (MRC)
  • Had our first profitable Q3 and anticipate full year profitability following the merger with Factual
  • A return to expansive growth, revenue, and profitability in Q4 2020 which in turn resulted in over 40 job openings across the entire organization
  • Built a team of over 300 employees that pulls the best of the best from three different companies to deliver the Voltron of location

As I transition at the start of the next year from CEO to #1 cheerleader and investor, I could not be more proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team at Foursquare. In a world where we could have chosen to let change overwhelm us, instead we chose to embrace it, learn from it, and ultimately grow in the face of it. What matters most is the people who make the company.

Foursquare’s history is one of the most interesting, recognized, and celebrated journeys in tech over the last decade. Today, I am thrilled to see us embark on the next chapter of Foursquare’s story with the introduction of our new company brand, which you can see and read all about in the following post. This new brand is the culmination of Foursquare, Placed, and Factual’s combined 30 years of history in location, where we shared the same vision to offer the world a trusted, independent location leader. Stronger together, we can do just that under one unified Foursquare brand. We think of this as Foursquare Everywhere, an ingredient entity that enables the success of the best brands in the world.

These last 10 years for me have been the journey of a lifetime. For colleagues past and present, you’ve helped Foursquare become the undisputed leader in location, and the future is bright. Foursquare chose — then embraced — growth, and I couldn’t be more excited and confident in Foursquare’s future success.

-David Shim