Cofounder and CEO, Foursquare
For making going out a competitive sport. Before Foursquare, the idea that it would matter how many times you went to a particular establishment hadn't entered the popular consciousness. Dennis Crowley, cofounder and CEO of Foursquare, changed that.
Foursquare, launched in 2009, is a mobile-device application that lets you broadcast your location and see where your friends are. But Crowley and cofounder Naveen Selvadurai added addictive features: People "check in" and receive virtual badges and titles (like Mayor) if they go to enough new places or go there more than anybody else. Today Foursquare has over 3 million users who are obsessed with the seemingly pointless status symbol of having visited their local coffee shop more often than anyone else.
Companies like Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Foodspotting have now implemented social "game play" elements. Facebook has launched its own "Places" feature. And everyone is trying to guess how restaurants and bars will use this potentially powerful marketing channel; Starbucks is already giving its mayors discounts on Frappuccinos.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I used to work as a snowboard instructor, before I went to grad school, in the winter of 2002. I wouldn't mind doing that again. I got to snowboard 100 days a year.
Does anything bug you about your industry?
We're a big part of the revival of tech start-ups in New York, so that's exciting. If we could change anything, it would be the stigma about how a company in New York can't be a real tech company because it's not out west. There are a dozen start-ups in New York proving those people wrong.
What's the last best meal you ate?
I went to a place in the Lower East Side called the Meatball Shop that was mind-blowingly awesome. I'm a big splitty/splitty fan, so—I went with our GM—we got one pork meatball sandwich and one chicken meatball sandwich and split them down the middle. The atmosphere there was so crowded; it drives me crazy. I went down for lunch one day, and it took us about an hour.
New York Contributing Editor Alex Van Buren contributed reporting.