Foursquare recently got some $41 million from investors – mostly in the form of a loan – which will give the company some breathing room as it improves its current position and longer-term outlook.
The money will be used to improve the app to make it a “more robust recommendation tool,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
Before this latest move, Foursquare reportedly earned the relatively low sum of $2 million in revenue last year, Bloomberg Businessweek said. Also, PrivCo as of January “predicted the company would die by the end of the year.” And last month Keith Rabois, a venture capitalist, said in a tweet the “only hope” for the company “was a buyout.”
Among those taking part in the new financing were Silver Lake Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Spark Capital.
“The bulk of the money is a multiyear loan from Silver Lake; the rest is convertible debt that can eventually be swapped for shares,” according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. “By taking on debt, rather than giving investors equity stakes, Foursquare delays a public debate about its true worth.”
“By raising debt instead of equity, Foursquare avoids the challenge of getting investors to place a value on the company, as well as avoiding the dilution of its management team's equity stakes,” The Wall Street Journal added in its explanation of the approach.
Also, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures liked the method used to raise the money. “For the investors, we get the comfort of knowing that eventually our investment will become equity and we will not have to price it,” Wilson said in a blog post. “Someone else will.”
Just what is the company worth, anyway? Prior investment rounds gave its value at $600 million. Spark Capital gave the company a value of at least $760 million in 2012, The Journal said.
Some see the lack of a valuation a troubling sign, however. “The fact that Foursquare wasn’t able to agree on a valuation means there’s still a big risk in this company — more than there should be at this stage,” analyst Rocky Agrawal told VentureBeat.
Also, the company still needs to come up with a successful business model, The Journal added.
“The stuff we’re building takes a lot of work. … We’ve got a ton left to do,” Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said in a blog post. “We’re building tools for local businesses to connect with their customers. We’re making search better, every single day. We’re building that location layer for the internet – the platform that all other companies use to power location in their apps.”
He added in a statement quoted by Bloomberg Businessweek the new money “allows us to get closer to being able to prove that there’s a real business here.”
Soon, Foursquare will let all of the merchants listed on the app purchase ads. The number of sales reps will increase to 40. Foursquare will also highlight the app’s search function.
With Foursquare, users employ their smartphones to give locations at restaurants and bars. Their friends can know where they are, maybe show up, too, and users also get recommendations about food and activities based on their locations. Recently, some 1.3 million businesses were using Foursquare. Also, the app was used by about 33 million people, compared to about 25 million users as of last November, The Journal said.
Now, the company has to answer the question of “Can it actually build a business?” VentureBeat reported. “The answer, it seems, is still up in the air.”
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