Over the weekend, GigaOM’s Om Malik broke the news that Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai is departing the company on what is essentially the third anniversary of the company. The location-based check-in service has gone from the talk of SXSW to now having 15 million users, but the timing coincides with other recent reports that suggest this may be just the beginning of more transition to come for the company remaining co-founder Dennis Crowley now helms alone.
In a blog post on his personal site, Selvadurai confirmed Malik’s report Sunday and framed his decision to depart as a personal one related to wanting to move on to something new, and he spoke about his continued involvement at Foursquare going forward. “I’ve always been here for the company and I always will be,” Selvadurai wrote. “Going forward, I’m going to continue to be connected to the company: I’m on the board, I’ll still be advising, and I’m obviously going to be the single most vocal user.” Selvadurai had not responded to a request for additional comment by the time of publication.
Foursquare’s official response pretty closely mirrors Selvadurai’s blog post. Foursquare PR representative Laura Covington told us the company now has 15 million users that have checked in over 1.5 billion times. “This wouldn’t have been possible without Naveen’s creativity, vision, and tireless work,” she wrote in an email. “We’re sad to see him go, but excited to see what he builds next. We can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done to make foursquare what it is today.”
But news of Selvadurai’s departure also comes after Crowley told TechCrunch in an interview last week that “people are not checking in,” and that instead people are using it to find friends and recommendations. Crowley de-emphasized engagement and scale (Foursquare is still using the 15 million user number it announced in December of 2011) and focused on talking about building out improved experiences.
Foursquare is definitely a leader in dedicated locati0n-based services, but questions still remain about whether or not check-in apps are something that can survive long-term. Gowalla, Facebook’s biggest competitor, confirmed in December that it would be shutting down after Facebook acquired the company. Gowalla only had around 2 million users compared to Foursquare’s 15 million, but that doesn’t mean Foursquare is immune from hitting a similar plateau.
At the same time as Crowley talks a shift in focus and Selvadurai departs, company investors Spark Capital and SV Angel are reportedly buying up employee stock, according to TechCrunch. It’s a move that could signal those firms are expecting big things from Crowley and Foursquare in the near future, which is another sign we might see a significant shift in direction.
There’s no doubt that Foursquare has had good early momentum, but as the location-based landscape shifts it’s starting to look like the company may, too. In a recent interview, future check-in service Forecast’s CEO Renee Pinnell said that he felt his company had gotten all the value they could out of Foursquare’s API and needed to look to Facebook integration to continue to grow. Foursquare may indeed be a pioneer of mobile location-based services, but the company is showing signs it knows it needs to make changes to become an important part of the future of that space as well.