E109: Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder and Executive Chair at Foursquare – Interview

May 2, 2017


I was lucky enough to interview Dennis Crowley. A lot of you have heard of or probably know Dennis. He’s the co-Founder of the popular location-based and discovery apps, Foursquare and Swarm. And he also recently started a soccer team in Kingston, NY. He has received a number of awards including Fortune’s 40 under 40 twice.

Before Foursquare he started Dodgeball, which was acquired by Google.

With both Dodgeball and Foursquare Dennis saw the future. I’m curious how he did it.

Here are some other things we talk about:

-What data does Foursquare use to identify a location, even differentiate between floors?
-Did Dennis ever think they’d hit a million users back in 2009?
-What can they predict with their location data?
-Why did Dennis start a semi-pro soccer team?

Dave Kruse: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Flyover Labs and today we get to talk to Dennis Crowley. And many of you have probably heard of Dennis. He is the Co-Founder of the popular location base and discovery apps of Foursquare and Swarm, and beyond that he’s built a lot of backend data services for AdTech and CPlanning and hedge funds and I think a number of other ones, so maybe we’ll hear about some of those as well. And he also recently started a soccer team in Kingston, New York, which is pretty cool. And so Dennis has done quite well and he has received a number of awards including a couple of times he has been named the Fortunes 40 under 40. And before Foursquare he stated Dodgeball, which was eventually acquired by Google. I still remember when Dodgeball first came out, so I’m pretty excited to talk to Dennis today about that a little bit. So yeah, interested in what Dennis is up to now and what he’s excited about and just hear about his experiences. So Dennis, thanks for joining us today.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, happy to be a part of the show. It’s really fun to join.

Dave Kruse: Definitely. And so I think the story behind Dodgeball is kind of interesting. If I remember right, this is a long time ago, but I remember when it first came out and how did you get the idea for Dodgeball back and what year did you start Dodgeball?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, I mean Dodgeball has been kicking around for the better, I don’t know, it’s like 15 years or more than that. You know we probably started it around the year 2000 or so when it was just a website that was designed for people to add reviews and be able to add new places. And New York was expanding very quickly back in those days and there wasn’t a city guide that could really keep up with how quickly it was changing, that was where the big idea came from. A couple years later as all my friends started getting laid off from their dot com days, we had tweaked the product a little bit to make it about turning it into a utility so people could broadcast in a location. Like hey, I don’t have a job and you don’t have a job and none of my friends have jobs, so why don’t you just – we’ll make a tool that says, hey, I’m at the Liquor Bar, come and meet me or I’m at Central Park, come and meet me. And that was a tool for our laid-off friends, our friends with no jobs. And you know from there a bunch of people started using it, you know not too many. It was probably a couple of dozen. Then I went to grad school and it kind of dusted off some of that old code and turned it into something much bigger, this is you know five years later and then that turned into our thesis project which we then sold to Google and then that’s kind of where everything started to accelerate.

Dave Kruse: Wow! All right, that’s an interesting story. So how, what prompted you even to get into building a website around that? Were you always curious growing up or kind of entrepreneurial or what gave you the initiative to do that?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, you know I always like to make things. Like we used to make like fanzines in high school about like skate boarding and video games and you know little school newspapers and stuff like that. You know college we were making websites and you know making, like personal journals. Like publish your photos online and tell a story about how much fun we had last weekend. We liked to do that and tell stories and you know make things that helped us tell stories. You know like with Dodgeball it was like – the first version it was like very much like a city guide. We were – you know we were in New York and you know we just moved down to the city after college and I was frustrated with the existing tools, like the city searches that people used and I was like this is just a shitty product. So I started on – it’s not a good product. You know someone should make something better and you know when no one makes something better sometimes you are just like why don’t we just be the ones that make something better. And I think that’s kind of the big epiphany that I had around 2000, 2001 or so, where it’s like if there is stuff that you want to see, like you can either sit or – if there is something you want to see in the world you can either sit around and wait for someone else to make it or you can just make it yourself. You know like I was meeting people that have started companies at that time, and I’m like you are just like me, you are just like a year older and you know how to code things. Like why can’t I be you someday and you know I kind of went through that experience in New York and just started building my own stuff.

Dave Kruse: Nice and I like ideas that kind of keep coming back, like the Dodgeball one and morphing into different things, because sometimes it’s hard to know like well how much time should I spend in this idea, but it sounds like it kind of came – well everything came and went and eventually then you put a lot more time into it.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, it was just a – I mean it was a silent project for a long time and I think this is important. Not like I quit my job and I was like I’m going to do this thing. It was like we just – you know you build a little bit every couple of days or every couple of weeks and you know Dodgeball was around 2001, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 before it turned into something big, which is when we sold it to Google. I mean that’s five or six years of this building thing, tinkering with it before it turned into something. So it’s not like an overnight thing. And even Foursquare, like when we rebuild Foursquare after Dodgeball went away, I mean it was just a side project. It was let’s build this thing, let’s get our friends to use it and maybe it will be as big as Dodgeball was. Like that’s how we used to think about it, which is also interesting because that’s how the soccer stuff is staring. Like you know we stated the soccer team up in the Hudson Valley of New York about two hours outside the city and you know it’s just a small thing. We are going to start our second season and people are like oh! It’s just like a small little project. Like it is now, but like what is it in five years? I don’t know. You know like Foursquare blew up in a huge awesome way and now there is 200 people at work here. Like what happens with this other thing that we are working on. So I think it’s interesting like in the early days when you can get something that you think is really interesting and you are really excited about it, and sometimes you are not you know – you are not perfectly articulate about why you are excited about it. And then everyone tells you, well I don’t know if this is a good idea or why are you working on this? Why don’t you do something else? Sometimes those things grow up and turn into really great excellent projects.

Dave Kruse: I think that’s a healthy way I think to look at things to. It’s a lot of pressure to say I’m going to start this and I’m going to grow it to a million users in one year and it doesn’t work…

Dennis Crowley: Yeah. Well, it’s funny when you read it out like that. It seems kind of audacious right, but you know like I remember one of the first times we ever sat down with Fed Wilson. This is before Union Square gave us our first cheque. I remember him saying, like when you are going to hit million users. I’m like a million users, we’ll never hit a million users. Like it just seemed crazy for us. This is back in like summer 2009. But then sure enough, like a couple months later we hit a million users. And that comes from like – I’ve never build something that hit a million users before, but you know Fred and his job as a venture capitalist is like you know his job is finding those companies that go from zero users to a million users. And he saw us as one of those things and we were able to pull it off.

Dave Kruse: So did you actually tell Fred in the meeting that you won’t hit a million users?

Dennis Crowley: Oh yeah! I remember like laughing, like I don’t think we are ever going to hit a million users. Let’s all get our expectations in check. And then you know here we are eight years later where there is like 50 million people every month that use it. And that’s great, right, so it just shows how far you can come in eight years.

Dave Kruse: So why do you think, they must have just not believed you, because you know generally you told that – tell VC he’s like oh! Make sure your numbers are huge and they need to hit a million exit. But it sounds like you guys didn’t have those numbers necessarily.

Dennis Crowley: Well, I mean everything is a little different now than it was, than it was then. I think just because there are so many people that are using these devices every day. Like when we started we were in a – it wasn’t pre-Twitter, but it was before Twitter was big and it was before like everyone in the world knew what Twitter is, and it was before everyone in the world had a Facebook account and so like the expectations were different then. It’s like oh, we are making stuff that like tech people use. And now eight years later it’s like now you are making stuff that’s like used by more people than watch TV, right, so it’s like a much larger audience. It’s kind of a big, big amazing thing.

Dave Kruse: Yeah. I can’t wait to spend eight years, well – and so can you just tell, in case people have been living under a rock what Foursquare is and did you start it in 2009? And when was the official – when did you kind of start tinkering with it?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, I mean we stated tinkering with it in 2008, but really we didn’t get serious about it. We always said generally 2009 is the day once I start counting from. So let me – so you know like Foursquare now it was – we pitch ourselves like a location intelligence company, right. So it’s a technology company that makes products that you know gather lots of information about what’s going in the world, mostly through our two consumer apps, the Foursquare City Guide App and the Swarm Check in App. And then we built a whole bunch of products that levers that data for advertisers and for marketers and for analyst and financial people. So they get a sense of like how do phones move through the world and what does it mean that more phones were at Apple stores the last week than this week or fewer phones were at Support Lay last quarter than this quarter where you know the people that saw this add actually went into their BMW dealership over a 30 day period. And so we help people figure out what’s going on in real world. Another big part of the company is like we license a lot of the technology and data back to other companies. So even if you don’t use the Foursquare city guide app or the Swarm app, there is a good change that you touch Foursquare through you know using snapshot geo filters or geo tagging the tweet you know in Twitter or geo tagging something in Pintrest or using Apple maps outside the U.S. or calling an Uber and telling it to pick you up at a certain store. I mean all those things leverage Foursquare data.

Dave Kruse: And so what are you licensing. You are essentially licensing like because you have a really good refined location data, location engine or what do you..?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, it’s like our database of about 100 million places around the word as well as all the admitted data that goes with them, like the address and the phone number and the photos and all the tips that go with it. And then that’s all of the things that’s kind of bundled in our API. We’ve got like a 100,000 people use the API. I think the big news around here now is that we have this other technology which is called Pilgrim and you know it’s a piece of technology that enables Foursquare to understand okay, when you’ve taken your phone inside of a place, like a store or a coffee shop or you know bakery or gym whatever it is, any place. If you walk inside the place and left the phones inside like we can figure out oh! this person is inside of a Starbucks, we know this place. Like he’s been here three times, he likes to go to coffee shops. And then if you walk out and then go into like the J.Crew next door, it’s like oh yeah! We know this place, you are inside of a J.Crew now. You know like everyone has had GPS forever, but GPS is just kind of these coordinates you know of like where you are on a map and what the pilgrim database does and what the pilgrim FDK does, it enable you know developers to know with a high degree of precession, are you in this store or that store or this coffee shop or that coffee shop and so now we are starting to talk to developers about embedding this inside of their apps. So you can make a game that was different if you were inside of a book store or a coffee shop. You know your character powers up differently if you are in a gum or eating pizza right. You can make apps that, different couponing apps if you will. Like if you go into a store and there’s a relevant coupon there, it pops up and lets you know about that and they can make exercise apps that change you depending on where you have been eating out the last couple of days. So like having this type of awareness we believe is going to be this big part of the mobile, the future of all things mobile computing and contextual work computing and now we are powering this for lots of developers.

Dave Kruse: And is that – are there apps actually using it right now, the kind of contextual aspect or is it ultimately all going to…

Dennis Crowley: Yeah. Well, we just launched it like two weeks ago and we have kind of like a closed public data going on at the same time. So it’s probably about 10 different apps that are using it. A couple of 100 people that signed up to be on the wait list to use it. And the plan is to eventually just make it you know accessible to anyone, for any student and while you can use it, any developer part of the garage can use it. But you know like, like the things that I get really excited about are like are what happens when Siri actually works or when you can take Alexa out into the world and it walks around with you. Like all those things are going to get smarter depending on their understanding of what you do you know every day. Like you go to the gym, you go to the sushi restaurant, you go the super market, you to the fancy super market, you go to the cheap super market, you go to the Starbucks, you got to any coffee shop. Like all this stuff gets smarter based on the understanding of how you use the real world. But those things have to know where you go, have to know your patters and what you like and what you don’t like and I think it’s going to be Foursquare Tech that’s going to be powering that part of a lot of those experiences. And so I think that’s going to be a big part of everything that kind of happens in this mobile and contextual world over the next two years or so.

Dave Kruse: Yeah, even – I mean even it goes further down the road with augmented reality, it’s even more popular. I mean the big part of that is understanding the context like anything else, but that can be even more nuanced.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah exactly. I mean everything is based on GPS now. Like just the coordinates and people still need to figure out like okay, this GPS coordinate maps to what, is it the BestBuy or is the Staple Store. And that’s easy to do in the suburbs or when the stores are really, really big, but in New York when everything is smaller or you know not just the New York, the top 500 cities in the world where like everything is not a huge store, it’s very difficult to do that stuff and that’s a big part of the problem that we helping developers solve.

Dave Kruse: So that’s interesting. So let’s say you are in Manhattan and there is a Laundromat right next to a bar. You could probably identify whether that person went into the Laundromat or the bar?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah there is probably like 95% precession when we do it. So if you know somebody walks out of the bar and then goes into the Laundromat, we can usually detect that change of state as well.

Dave Kruse: Interesting! Because I mean the GPS in your phone, that must only track you to like 20 or 30 feet is that right or do you know…?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, it depends on the phone, it depends on the conditions, like the weather conditions, the conditions of the city, is the building made out of glass, is it made out of brick, it there movement at the concrete, you know there is all these things that effect that and so the way our model works is it like uses GPS, but it also uses okay, what WiFi signals can you see, what Bluetooth signals can you see, what GSM radios do you see right now. So like every place in the world has a fingerprint of like what radios can be seen and what types of radios can be seen and its actually every floor in every building has a different fingerprint too and what happens is, every time someone hits that check in button or likes the place or uploads a photo or saves the place or whatever it is, like that teaches us about the fingerprint of that place and we use that map of fingerprint to figure out where all the stuff has happened. And so you know it turns out that the consumer apps, the Foursquare or City Guide App or the Swarm app, like they are the ones that are, they are collecting like all of this information about okay, what do places look like? What are the Bluetooth and WiFi signals look like, so that when the next person walks in, it’s like oh! I’ve seen this place before. This is place is called you know Aunty Ann’s Pretzels, we’ve seen this before, and so we can do that now for a 100 million places around the world which is what makes the dataset so powerful.

Dave Kruse: Wow! Yeah I like the fingerprinting analogy and so yeah, so you can even tell people, figure out if people are in the second or third floor potentially and then when you are done with that you just use the GPS at that point.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, like for example like, you know I’m in first Foursquare HQ in solo and the building is I don’t know, its 200 feet wide right, is that right, let’s call it 200 feet wide.

Dave Kruse: Sounds good to me.

Dennis Crowley: And there’s 10 floors here, but you know Foursquare – well the apps and all the technology, it knows when you are on the 10th floor because the WiFi scan up here looks different than it does on the fifth floor, its different as it is in the second floor, it looks different down on the street. And so we get that VX resolution just by understanding what radios we can see and can’t see.

Dave Kruse: Wow! You must have some pretty good data folks. You must have a quite a large dataset if you are capturing all that all the time, that’s amazing.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah I think there is like 11 billion check-ins. I think that’s the number and we’ll get probably 10 million per day and as a team of data scientist that are constantly optimizing and pulling things out. But I think that what’s – the real interesting stuff that comes from that data set is our ability to just like understand these trends in the real world. You know are more people going to ice-cream shops around the world now than they were two weeks ago; that’s an easy one, but it’s like did more people go in tomorrow on Back Friday this year versus last year and you know can we predict that even before Black Friday happens based off of all the store visits that we have seen over the past six months. Now those are the types of things we are trying to do. Like predict the future based upon where phones have been in the past. And when you can do that accurately, you know you can do things like predict stock market behavior, you know anticipate you know the traffic trends in retail; you know measure the effectiveness of advertising online or offline, like measure the effectiveness of the outdoor advertising if you wanted to. Now there is lots of really cool things that you can do with that data set when you have it working and you know the big story for us is like if we work on stuff for a long time and it finally works, you know just started working like a couple years ago.

Dave Kruse: Wow! And I remember, I saw an interview and that you said that you know Foursquare is finally where it’s at now. It’s kind of where you want – the vision you originally had when you started the company, but that it’s just taken a while to fill. I mean when you started Foursquare did you kind of have the vision of offering this contextual data at some point?

Dennis Crowley: Well we wanted to – we really wanted to. You know you have this other app called Myzbot, have you seen that?

Dave Kruse: Yeah.

Dennis Crowley: It’s like a – it’s our version of a bot. It’s more like – it’s like an R&D product. You can download in the store, but it’s like an R&D project here. And there are a ton of users, tens of thousands of users of it, like I don’t even know its numbers. But the idea is that you download this thing and you kind of put it in your pocket and as you walk around it tells you what you should do, like oh! Go to the store across the street, or hey, because you spend a lot of time in this neighborhood you should know about this awesome place that opened up. And that’s what we wanted to build, we wanted to build something that could understand the way you have been and then tell you where to go based upon where you have been. But in order to even build that, you have to know about all the places in the word, right which is a lot; you have to know what’s great about all the places in the world, like that’s hard; and then you have to know when they open, when they close, when they are popular and when they are not and why they are popular, which is hard and then you have understand where people have gone, so that you can match up like the right place that you should go in the future with the places that you have been to in the past. And it just takes, like there is a lot of things that has to get filled in order to make that vision happen and that’s what we have been doing for the last eight years.

Dave Kruse: Interesting and going back to the bill that kind of predict, have you seen any – this is more of a fun fact, but if you can think of one; a prediction that you saw that whether it’s around people shopping at malls or anything, is there another kind of fun fact that you have or trend that you saw that…

Dennis Crowley: I haven’t – you know like usually we do this with like a press story, right. You know we find an interesting insight and we put it out there and it you know advertises kind of how often the data is, and then that gets us clients that want to dig into it, but we predicted the number of iPhone 6s that will get sold, we predicted the stock market decline after the equilite breakout, we predicted Black Friday traffic accurately, we predicted the drop in Trump, in visits to Trump properties after the campaign stated, you know there is whole set of these things that we have done. And then when we are right, we did something like McDonalds breakfast versus Taco Bell’s breakfast. You know when we are right about these things and we are often right, that’s what sends a lot of hedge funds our way that want to say hey, can we trade off this data or advertisers like oh my gosh! You know how to do this. Like can you help us figure out how to run this ad campaign, the effectiveness of the campaign? Can you help us figure out where we should put our next 10 stores, you know that type of stuff is pretty interesting.

Dave Kruse: Yeah, I mean this is – like I knew you guys were still active and like you know you are doing well, but man this is – I didn’t know you had this much going on. I mean you almost seen your golden years.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, kind of right. It’s funny because there is a lot of people what still say like, you guys you are making, you know that check in app, do people still check in and I’m like there is plenty of people who build check in. They are like, I don’t check in any more, mate. That’s fine, because there is like 50 million people round the world that use these products every month and so we are doing just fine without you. But you probably don’t even know that you use Foursquare data on a regular basis, whether it’s Google Earth, whether it’s Pintrest, Apple Maps or Snapchat or whatever which is kind of the cool part right. So we are baked into all these other, all these other platforms and I think we are only going to see more of that in the future.

Dave Kruse: Got you, okay. Okay and a couple of other things I want to talk about after this, but one more. I was just curious about the pricing for this per pilgrim. Will it just be based on API calls or how will you price it, the data service?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, I think they are still working through kind of the nuts and bolts to the pricing, but it’s based off of usage. You know if you are – it’s kind of like the API. Like if you are a student and you are building something off of the API, like we don’t charge you for it, but if your student project turns out to be you know Snapchat then we will start charging for it.

Dave Kruse: Got you, okay. It makes senses, all right. So let’s talk a little bit – you mentioned at the beginning that I mentioned at the meeting too is about the soccer team. I mean just – I read – that’s what I think finally prompted me to contact you, because I read an article that you are starting a soccer team and it was like oh, that’s so cool, and so…

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, that’s a fun project.

Dave Kruse: Yeah. So yeah, have you always been interested in soccer? What prompted you to make – start that?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, I mean like I’m not any good and probably I didn’t grow – I didn’t play growing up. I started playing probably eight or nine years ago, around the same time that we were doing Foursquare. A group of buddies of mine put a team together and they were all pretty skilled and they all played in high school and college and you know I had never played. So I was the worst one in the league probably and probably still am the worst one in the league. But you know, like we’ve always been going to matches and we’ve following the U.S. around when they were in the world cup and they were trying to qualify and I really enjoyed that kind of global nature of the sport. But you know like my wife and I spend a lot of time outside the city, so we have a place about two hours north of the city in a town called Kingston and one day we were just sitting around and I’m like it would cool to go for a match. I wish we could go see a game, take our friends, take our friends kids, it would be fun to go and there is no team up there. And I was wondering why hasn’t anyone made a team. Like I want to go see a match, why isn’t there a team up here? Kind of the same thing with Dodgeball, right, you know it’s like this city guide sucks. Why can’t we just, why didn’t someone make a better one? Well, we’ll just do it. It’s the same thing was stuck here. It’s like, there is no team up here; well how about – we’ll just make a team. And so that’s what we did and it took us you know like nine months to do it and we found some great players, we found a great coach, we have a great brand, we found a stadium, sponsors, practice fields, you know there’s like a thousand things you have to do and you know like now we are about to go into our second season. You know we get close to a 1000 fans at the game, which is – yeah, it’s awesome. We are in the fourth division. We are not running the MLS team. We are like four levels down and we do it on a pretty scrappy budget. The team is setup as a non-profit. We lost money last year, but maybe this year we’ll get to break even and it’s a fun project. The matches are great. It brings the community together. It inspires kids to play. So we got this like cool thing going on now and we are trying to figure out like what’s next for it.

Dave Kruse: So was there already kind of a league and teams that use to play like in the area do you have to like go along way just to…

Dennis Crowley: Oh yeah, there is – we are in a league called the MPSL and the league is about 100 teams around the country, right. So there is teams in California, in Portland, in Texas, in Detroit like really all over the country they are spread, and we filled out the paperwork to file for an expansion team. Like if we want to be an expansion team we are going to play in the Hudson Valley and you know we got in right, which I was like oh my gosh! I can’t believe they let us in. We got in and we ended playing teams in Boston, in New York and there is one in New Hampshire, one in Main, there is two in Connecticut now. So we travel, but we don’t have to travel all over the country, so it keeps the cost pretty low. But the league is great. It’s like startup soccer, right and so it’s just all these people – all these entrepreneurs that are just building, instead of building a tech startup, they are building like a soccer startup. And all trying to sell merchandise, and get ticket sales and you know build an audience and do really well in the field and everyone wants that opportunity to play bigger and better teams.

Dave Kruse: And how much – and the reason why I am asking this is your pretty public with all this on the article. So how much did it cost to get the team going and how much did you lose in that first season, if you are willing to share?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah I published all those days online from my media page, so maybe I’ll have you linked to it and the description for the blog post. So I wrote a big blog post before the season started about like what we are doing and why we think it’s important and what the goals are for this and then we wrote one at the end of the season which is just every piece of data that I have about all the stuff we sold, how many people showed up at the games, what the weather conditions were up, how far we had to travel, how must travel cost, how much does the sponsorship cost. You know I think, I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, but I think that we ended up running on a budget of about a little over $100,000, or I think even $115,000 and we didn’t get to break even, but we got pretty – the account, you know all the stuff that we sold through the holiday season, because we sold a lot of merchandise. We got pretty close, we were probably like $10,000 away or maybe $10,000 or $15,000 on the first season which I think is pretty good. And you know we are going to basically try the same thing next year with like you know a bigger, you know just the sponsors chipping in a little bit more, we’ll probably sell more merchandise as greater awareness for the club, we might make the playoff you know. So there’s all these other things into it. But I’m trying to put together a model, so if other people want to do a project like this and start a team in New Jersey or in Arizona or wherever you are in the U.S., like you can look at it and say, okay we can either afford this or we can’t or this is how we could afford it or we will or won’t do. And so I think that’s – like there was no instruction manual when we were starting this and my approach has been like, why don’t we be the ones that make the manual too. Like we’ll kind of put together this list of how we did it and hopefully we’ll encourage other people to do it too, which have. You know there’s probably 10 teams that I have talked to and they are like hey, we are starting from scratch and we are following your model. And like, you know thank you so much for doing this. I am like that’s great. Let me know if you actually put a team together. So yeah, someday we’ll get to play with one of the teams that was inspired by us doing it and that would be like a really fun thing.

Dave Kruse: Yeah, Madison needs something like that, because we have like a minor league baseball, but this would be – Well, I like watching soccer a lot more than baseball, so this is – that’s why I was so intrigued.

Dennis Crowley: I wonder if there is a team already in Madison in our league you know. I’ll look it up and let you know.

Dave Kruse: Yeah, look it up and we’ll link to it if they are, but I mean yeah, not that I know of. So where do you want to take kind of your soccer vision? I mean right now you are just content with keep growing your current team, do you want to keep – do you want to expand or what are the…

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, I mean we did okay last year. You know like we are, you know like we are like a tech start and don’t have a working product yet, right. So like we had a – we had product on the field but we only, we won less than half of our games. So this year we want to be more competitive in our conference, which I think we will do. We are making changes in the coaching staff. We have all these players kind of coming out the wood work. Like we do our – we are in the middle of tryouts now. We do our fifth tryout next – this Saturday is our last tryout. So next Saturday we’ll see what the squad ended up looking like and I think the team will be a little bit stronger than it was last year, which is great. You know I think a lot about the league in general and the league is about 100 teams now. Like what if the league was 500 teams? What if everyone was competing and getting prize money and you know trying to you know the whole concept in soccer outside the U.S. that’s called promotion and relegation where if your team does well you get promoted to a better league and if you keep winning you get promoted to an even better league and eventually you can play the best teams in the country if your team is good enough. But if you don’t do well you get knocked into the worse league and if you don’t do well there you get knocked down again. And so there is a constant movement of the teams’ in-between the leagues. You know like when you look at U.S. sports, it’s like there is the same teams in baseball know that there where when I was growing up and cared about baseball, and it’s the same thing with the NBA and the NFL and very rarely do you have like an armature team that’s battling their way up, that get this chance to play some of these bigger teams and I’m really bullish on this idea of kind of entrepreneurship in terms of lower level sports and people investing in soccer infrastructure as a way to kind of move themselves up in the system. That system doesn’t really exist in the U.S. right now, so someone has to make that system which when you look at it, it’s like a very daunting thing. It’s like oh my gosh! It’s all this stuff that has to be fixed. But like you know listen, we have been working on Foursquare for eight years and we’ve made all this amazing stuff that like we had to build 10 other things before we could get to the thing that we actually wanted to build in the beginning. And so I see this soccer challenge as kind of very similar to me as the Foursquare challenge right, because there is all this stuff that seems impossible that like can never get changed, and can never get fixed until someone just comes along and tries to fix it and you know we did that with Foursquare. We build all this technology that just didn’t exist and people said couldn’t exist which just took us eight year to do it. And so like what can we do with our team and what can we do with our league and making it look like the soccer in the U.S., three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, that’s really fun stuff to think about, especially when you think that like our little team in Kingston New York, two hours north of New York City could play a role in shaping some of this.

Dave Kruse: That’s a great vision. Yeah, you are right, there is nothing like what you described in the United States, but that will make it so much more interesting and exciting. I know no other sport would have and it would never work for any other sport really, maybe because its…

Dennis Crowley: Yeah it does not set up that way, right. So we’ve got – there is portion and there is the minor leagues and you it’s just that’s how it is in baseball and basketball and football and you the minor league is sometimes just college teams. But that’s just – historically it’s just not the way that it’s been in soccer for the rest of the world. There is like top teams and then there is middle teams and then there is lower teams and they are all like you know professional clubs or armature clubs, but they are the ones that want to be the champion, and they are all competing around the world to move themselves up in these systems. It’s just the U.S. doesn’t – we are the only country in the world that doesn’t do this. Like every other country does it. Australia is the other one that doesn’t, but there is all this stuff that’s happening like, what we do yesterday to change the systems in Australia. So does that happen in the U.S., it should happen someday, it’s just not there yet.

Dave Kruse: Got you and we have the MLS, but so the MLS is probably structured more like the other major leagues, right. So you’d have – would that be your main barrio, the MLS.

Dennis Crowley: Yeah its just – its closed. You know the work part of it, like it’s a closed system. If I want my team to go in the MLS it doesn’t matter how good the team is. Like I have to pay a $100 million cover charge to get into that; its literally $100,000 million to get into the MLS and the league below there, you know a couple leagues below, it’s like I have to write a cover charge check for what is it, $10 million, $5 million, $2 million whatever it is, its millions of dollars. Our league, teams come in, you pay $15,000 to get into a league and that’s a good fare price. Its high enough that’s it’s not full of jokers and its low enough that you can pool the money together or do like a kick starter or something to get people to, get this thing across the finish like. And so yeah, there is a lot – all that stuff will change over the next 10 years or so. It’s just up for grabs like how it changes and what happens and who plays the role and I’m hoping that our scrappy little club gets to play a role in helping some of that change.

Dave Kruse: Got you, interesting, really interesting. Okay, so we are almost done at the podcast unfortunately, but yeah one more question and I’d like your kind of vision mentality that like, it’s like oh, this might take eight years, 10 years which I think is fairly rare. I mean everyone says that, but to actually commit to it is another thing. But along the way there is lots of up and downs and so how do you I guess stay the course. How do you stay positive? How do you not be like oh man! This is just – this isn’t going to be. Someday it would be like oh! This is just not going to work. How do you kind of keep it going?

Dennis Crowley: Yeah, I mean like with Foursquare where we had a north start, like there is the stuff that we want to build and we know that like our purpose in the world is to go build that stuff and you know there is all sorts of other companies along the way that try to put us out of businesses and there is all sorts of people that say you can’t build that or it’s never going to work or Google will do it first, and you know just kind of push some of that feedback to the side and you just continue building the things you want to build. And you know I think like of a lot of folks whoever have build a project of whoever built something like this, the hardest thing is just getting started and once you get started, then you just do like an hour a day or three hours a day or 18 hours a day whatever it is right. But like you do a little bit of it every day and before you know it like you built something great. And that’s like, it’s what we do every day at Foursquare and it’s kind of what we do every day with the soccer club too. You know it’s like you do an hour’s worth of work on it every day and that will eventually get us to the season and then you do an hour everyday for the next year and that get us to our third season and everything gets bigger and better every single year and it’s just kind of it. You just move in, its crappy now as we kind of move in the ball forward every day.

Dave Kruse: That’s good and I remember, I like the North Star example. I think Fred Wilson just had a blog post recently about one of the most important things is setting a vision in the startup like right away or like some type of vision and it sounds like you guys – maybe he was thinking you guys, but it sounds like you guys kind of have that early on, which is maybe it …

Dennis Crowley: Yeah I mean the vision can change. You know like the vision isn’t always very specific. Like sometimes it changes depending on you know where the world is moving and what’s changing the world. You know like we always – we always knew like hey, we want to make, we want this software that, you know that changes depending on where you take it and we want to make little pieces of software that tell you what to do when you walk into a new restaurant in your neighborhood. Now that’s kind of the big vision, but that’s like a product feature. What we didn’t realize is that you know if we built all the tools and data and technology that we needed to make that thing happen, but there was all these other kind of visions that hang off of that, all these other businesses, all these other opportunities and so you know a big part of what we have been doing at Foursquare like I think I said this earlier in the call. We talked about ourselves as a location intelligence company, because that summarizes like everything that we do; like the things that we make for consumers, the things that we make for brands, the things we make for our partners, the things we make for advertisers. It’s like we understand what’s going on in the world, where the phones are going and we help make awesome stuff, based off that. And location intelligence wasn’t the word that we were using to describe this stuff when we were working on my kitchen table when there was like two of us. But that has what the vision has grown up to become, like we just get better and better at articulating.

Dave Kruse: Got you and that’s a very good place to end I think. I like the fluid vision and that’s good. So yeah Dennis, definitely I really appreciate you coming on the show and it’s been a great – I learned a lot. Sometimes I learn more in other podcast and less in others, but this one I learnt a lot about what you guys are all doing and its exciting stuff and wish you the best of luck.

Dennis Crowley: Happy to help. Thanks so much. If I can be of helpful with anything just let me know. Otherwise, thanks for having me on this show. It was a lot of fun.

Dave Kruse: All right, it sounds good. Thanks Dennis and thanks everyone for listening to another episode of Flyover Labs. As always I appreciate it. Bye everyone. Bye Dennis.