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Foursquare to acquire Placed from Snap Inc. to deepen its location technology platform

Deal backed by $150M investment, led by The Raine Group

Written by Jeff Glueck on May 30, 2019 - Read time: 10 min - Read Later

Today, we are excited to announce Foursquare and Placed are joining forces. Our acquisition of Placed from Snap Inc. has been signed, and will close shortly.  Foursquare will add the Placed product—#1 in store visit attribution across digital, OOH and TV—to Foursquare’s bundle of location-based offerings.

We have long admired the Placed team and all they’ve accomplished in the space. We are thrilled to announce that David Shim, founder of Placed, will join the executive team of Foursquare, and to welcome his talented team aboard.

Some 500 brands rely on Placed Attribution today. Foursquare Attribution has also been growing quickly. Together now we are the clear leader: More than 1,000 brands—including more than 50% of the Fortune 100—have chosen Placed or Foursquare as a location services partner across our entire suite of products.

Today we are also announcing an investment of $150 million in Foursquare, led by The Raine Group, a leading TMT-focused global merchant bank, along with their co-investors. This is one of the largest investments ever in the location tech space. The investment will fund our acquisition and also capitalize us for our increased R&D and expansion plans, allowing us to focus on our mission to build the world’s most trusted, independent location technology platform.

This acquisition in the attribution space is part of our vision to offer a complete toolkit of location-aware services. There are five key areas to build this vision:   

  1. Developer Tools, to build smarter apps and customer engagement, using geo-context;

  2. Analytics, including consumer insights for planning;

  3. Audiences, so businesses can reach the right consumer segments for their message;

  4. Attribution, to test and learn which messages, segments and channels work best;

  5. Consumer, where through our own apps and Foursquare Labs’ R&D efforts we showcase what’s possible and inspire developers via our innovations around contextual location.
     

The combination with Placed immediately accelerates us towards this mission.  

With the Placed acquisition, Foursquare and Placed together are the clear #1 player in Attribution, adding to Foursquare’s #1 position in location-aware developer tools, which are relied upon by companies including Uber, Twitter, Samsung, Apple, Hilton, Accuweather, TripAdvisor, Tencent, and 150,000 other registered apps.  

We will keep building leadership in all five areas, and are well on our way with products in each area today.

Our new company will be built on the talents and dedication of more than 350 employees (with over 40% of them in engineering and data science). The fusion of the Foursquare and the Placed teams and cultures will make for a powerful mix.
 

Placed Powered by Foursquare

We plan to make Placed Attribution our flagship measurement product, under the “Placed powered by Foursquare” brand. Placed will grow even stronger with access to Foursquare’s core Pilgrim technology and mass of first-party data.

For instance, Placed will leverage Foursquare’s global map of 105 million POI’s across over 190 countries and can immediately tap into Foursquare’s measured audience in the U.S. of over 100 million monthly devices.

Both Placed and Foursquare have long been unique in the location space as the only players working with actual consumer on-the-ground confirmations as the foundation of our technologies. It’s an enormously difficult problem to accurately detect the difference between walking by or stopping in a particular store, or distinguishing between visits to two adjoining stores or in multi-story buildings. A big advantage for both Foursquare and Placed has been focusing on a first-party “always on” panel with multi-sensor and true stop awareness, while others rely on third-party sporadic data.

The ONLY way to accurately detect visits to 105 million global places is with millions of consumers taking digital sensor readings and confirming which store or place they visited, and leveraging signals like Wi-Fi triangulation, Bluetooth, time of day popularity, accelerometer, and GPS distortion inside buildings. For Foursquare, we started with check-ins, the original form of asking people to explicitly state their location and verify our guess at their inferred location. Right and wrong guesses are fed back to improve our machine learning.

Foursquare and Placed share a similar philosophy of building against a truth set of real consumer responses. Getting real people to confirm the name of their location is the only way to know if your technology is accurate or not. Placed has leveraged over 135 million survey responses in its first-party Placed survey apps, all from consumers opted-in to its rewards app. Foursquare expands the truth set for machine learning exponentially by adding in our over 13 billion consumer confirmations.

We keep these fresh with over a billion Foursquare check-ins annually, plus user confirmations of place locations from our developer network—for instance when users geotag a social post, upload a receipt to earn points, or rate a bar in various partner apps, to give examples.  

This first-party “truth set” approach is unique to Placed and Foursquare, raising the bar in an industry where inaccurate geofencing and junk source data have been all too common. It exemplifies the engineering-centric and data science-first cultures the companies have in common.  

Both companies also share a commitment to privacy and consumers being in control. Our Foursquare credo of “data as a privilege” only deepens as our company expands. We believe location should only be shared when consumers can see real value and visible benefits driven by location. We remain dedicated to elevating the industry through respect for transparency, user control, and instituting layers of privacy safeguards.
 

More About Placed

As mentioned, we’re thrilled to announce that David Shim will be joining the Foursquare executive team as President of the company, bringing all of his tenacity, focus and passion. He and his dedicated team have built an impressive company and the industry’s #1 measurement product. 18 of the top 20 QSR and fast casual dining brands have been longtime clients, for example. These hundreds of Placed clients will continue to have access to Placed Attribution for their omni-channel measurement (OOH, TV, social, print, audio and more).

Foursquare-CEO-Jeff Glueck-with-David-Shim-CEO-of-Placed

Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck, with David Shim, former CEO of Placed, now President of Foursquare, in NYC


We have tremendous tailwinds: 450 media platforms and publishers already enable Foursquare or Placed Attribution for advertisers, among them Twitter, Snap, Pandora, Amazon, Spotify and Waze. And with this announcement, we hope remaining walled gardens will consider allowing independent location-based measurement as well.

Foursquare and Placed together will allow a more complete toolkit to be offered to marketers. In particular, Foursquare’s Audience Segments will allow marketers to see in Placed dashboards what segments are responding to different ad campaigns, and immediately scale that campaign to millions more similar customers, from our database of 150 million devices in the U.S.

As well, Placed’s over 400 certified publishers can now tap into Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK, which adds real-time stop-detection to any app where consumers opt-in for location sharing. The Pilgrim SDK is already the leader in the market, in use with Accuweather, TripAdvisor, iHeartRadio, Tinder, TouchTunes, and other leading apps.  


About Raine

A bit more on The Raine Group. Raine focuses on investment and advisory opportunities exclusively in the technology, media, and telecommunications sectors, and has offices around the world. Raine’s strategy is based on leveraging its deep industry experience, unique network of relationships, and global reach to create value for companies like us in both an investor and advisor role.

After advising on our last funding round, the Raine team, led by Managing Director Gary Little, saw the potential for consolidation in our industry and how sharing Foursquare’s core location technology with leading players like Placed could unlock value for customers. Raine saw what makes Foursquare unique and best-positioned to lead the industry: Our Pilgrim “phone’s eye view” technology, scaled first-party data and developer network, and dedication to better consumer experiences and consumer privacy.    

This equity financing signifies Raine’s belief that the location space has enormous growth ahead over the next decade, not only for marketing, retail and dining, but also in industries like real estate, urban planning, health care, AI personalization, AR gaming, and so much more.
 

Thank You to Snap

When we first approached Snap about the idea of bringing together Placed and Foursquare, they quickly recognized how the combination would enhance Placed’s ability to fulfill its mission as a kind of Google Analytics of the offline world. David Shim joined the conversations and was fully supportive as the Placed and Foursquare leadership teams spent more time together.

Under the Foursquare umbrella, Placed can continue to serve clients and publishers as an independent analytics service, standing apart from any of the big media platforms. Placed can also benefit from Foursquare’s over $150 million in cumulative R&D investment focused entirely on location—that’s the only thing we think about.

Placed, powered by Foursquare, will continue to be a Snap preferred attribution partner to demonstrate visitation lift and provide insights for Snap advertisers. Snap knows Foursquare well as a longtime trusted partner on the product side. For years, Snap Geofilters have incorporated Foursquare data at places around the world. Foursquare will build on and deepen its existing partnership with Snap, across Geofilters and now through measurement too. We look forward to this next chapter together.

What does this mean for Foursquare’s long-term vision?
Foursquare’s vision to be the most trusted, independent location technology platform includes the goal to have best-in-class products for each of the five key areas of geo-contextual tech, as described above. Now our platform will be strengthened by the addition of the #1 attribution product.  

We will not rest until more and more consumer experiences are contextually smart, personally relevant, and timely. Beyond commerce, we see implications for accessibility and health. We already help people of diverse abilities move through cities, and are partnering with mental health support groups for veterans to prompt intervention when location patterns change in a concerning way. We are just at the beginning of what’s possible.

We see a future where the digital devices that we carry with us every day call our attention to physical space around us. In the next 10 years, it’ll be unimaginable to think that at one time, our phones, watches, cameras, cars and assistants didn’t recognize our movements and respond accurately and contextually. Foursquare powers these important connections. We build a platform that will give the next generation of independent makers, inventors, brands and challengers the tools to create these experiences—without having to depend precariously on the whims of the walled gardens.

We’re excited about what comes next and how our team will develop moving forward. We have the resources, with new capital and over $100M in annual revenue, to help invent the future.  Today, we take several steps closer to that future. Thank you to everyone who joins us on the journey. It’s a happy 10th birthday to Foursquare, indeed.
 

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Foursquare to acquire Placed from Snap Inc. to deepen its location technology platform

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