Why Andreessen Horowitz Invested in Foursquare

Ben Horowitz

Posted June 29, 2010

“They say he’s a grinder
fly ass rhyma’
With a CEO’s mind bra’”
–Kinfolk Kia Shine, Swag Music


Today we are extremely excited to announce that we are investing in Foursquare, a service that mixes social, locative, and gaming elements to encourage people to explore cities in which they live.

Here are the three reasons we invested.

1. A great Founder/CEO: Dennis Crowley

We prefer founding CEOs. In particular, we think the keeper of the product vision should run the company whenever possible because the toughest and most important decisions in technology companies are always about product strategy.

The only thing better than the CEO being the keeper of the vision is the CEO being the creator of the vision. In Foursquare’s case, Dennis not only created the vision for the company, but for the entire product category. Beyond that, he is very clearly the thought leader in the market. This is not at all surprising as he has been working on the problem for a decade and has highly refined his thinking through that period.

As importantly, Dennis embodies the kind of leadership that I described in Notes on Leadership. He’s the kind of leader that great technical minds will be excited to follow: visionary, righteous, and competent. I am really excited to work with Dennis to help him on his path from being a great leader to a great Chief Executive of an incredibly important company.

2. A killer product

When you look at the numbers, you’ll see that Foursquare is growing faster than Twitter did at this stage. In particular, their growth has been explosive over the past few months — they just hit 1 million users in April and now they’re approaching 1.8 million, adding around 15,000 users per day. It’s easy to see that people absolutely love the product. Less obvious to the competitors and pundits are the reasons why people love the product so much. I often hear people attribute Foursquare’s success entirely to check-ins or other easy-to-understand product features. It reminds me of the early days of Zynga when people thought the secret sauce behind Mafia Wars and Farmville were that those games were web-based.

It turns out Zynga games are wildly successful because Zynga has mastered the art of connecting friends via games—and they work incredibly hard behind the scenes to deliver what at face value looks very easy. How many times have you heard someone say, “I could have built Farmville in a weekend”?

Foursquare is very similar in that a lot of hard work behind the scenes goes into delivering a product that users love. Dennis and team have identified over a dozen different dimensions of the Foursquare product that must interact with each other in precisely optimal ways to achieve user delight. Years and years of research and sweat equity went into cracking the code, and the results are magical.

3. A gigantic market

At a macro level, over 4.6B people have mobile phones and there are 1.7B people on the Internet. Already, over 200M people worldwide have smart phones and that number is headed north fast. Foursquare might not win the entire smart phone market (some people don’t even like to leave their house), but it will capture a huge portion of it because it’s incredibly fun and addicting.

As importantly, 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. In fact, users have been so excited about the product that they’ve actually been signing up local businesses to run promotions for Foursquare’s mayors and active users. This natural enthusiasm is happening even before Foursquare has added specific product features to help businesses run campaigns. As a result, major brands such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Zagat, Bravo TV, Starbucks, C-SPAN, Marc Jacobs and over 10,000 businesses are currently working with Foursquare to build customer loyalty and drive traffic. Not many companies have their users turn into their sales force, and it’s definitely a good sign that this is happening around Foursquare.

We are excited to be on this journey with our good friends at Foursquare.