DFJ Growth Backs Foursquare, Barry Schuler Sees an “Inflection Point”

Dennis Crowley seemed to be on a quest in 2013 to change minds about—and revive the prospects for—his company Foursquare.

Earlier this year, Foursquare rolled out new versions of the check-in app, adding real-time recommendations and other features. But now, Crowley has the input of a former CEO of AOL.

Last Thursday, word came that DFJ Growth led a $35 million Series D round backing the New York-based startup. Capital Group also participated in the round. Beyond the money, the deal puts Barry Schuler, managing director with DFJ Growth, on Foursquare’s board.

Schuler is largely known for his time at AOL, particularly during its super-growth years from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. In an e-mailed statement, he said DFJ Growth has closely followed the evolution of geo-targeting via mobile.

“We believe it is the perfect value proposition for both user and advertiser,” Schuler said. “Foursquare has pioneered the category and has made stellar progress this year. They are at the proverbial inflection point we love to invest in.”

After its founding in 2009, Foursquare became synonymous with check-ins and location-based marketing, but lately the startup has been hunting for new ways to make money. Back in March, Crowley dropped by the New York Tech Meetup to show some of the new ideas Foursquare had been kicking around.

In particular, Crowley talked up uses for the heaps of data Foursquare collects via check-ins. According to his latest blog post, some 45 million people use the app. Some of the new tricks Foursquare has learned include predicting places people might want to visit or events and activities they may be interested in. The company also introduced a new ad platform for small businesses that want to market their shops to users of the app when they are nearby.

These days, Crowley sounds especially excited about the real-time recommendations the app now offers. Foursquare tips off users when they get close to something that may appeal to their tastes—a feature he described in his blog as “the future we’ve dreamed of.”

It remains to be seen whether these ideas will put the company on the trajectory Schuler hopes for.

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