Unsurprisingly, Foursquare's Founder Loves to Party

How a wallet full of Time Out clippings inspired Dennis Crowley to invent the check-in

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Dennis Crowley isn't your typical startup guy. According to a just-published profile, the Foursquare founder resembles Don Draper more than Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, Crowley says he doesn't really have any technical prowess. "I'm not an engineer," he told Advertising Age. "I tell the story. That's what I do."

To extend that metaphor slightly, Crowley would have to resemble at slightly more dude-ish Draper. The 35-year-old with the trademark floppy hair started out a journalism student at Syracuse and then switched to advertising when he thought that industry was doing more interesting things. That interest in technology lead him to New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, where after almost dropping out he invented Dodgeball, a texting version of Foursquare that he sold to Google for a "high seven figures" price tag. The idea for a socially driven to-do list, he says, came from a pretty hearty party appetite:

Before Mr. Crowley started Foursquare, before he was a celebrity entrepreneur, he was a New York City resident who liked going out, and as he explained to me one afternoon the original motive behind Foursquare is fairly humdrum, or decidedly analogue -- Time Out New York, the weekly magazine listing events in the city.

"I'd basically be ripping out little squares from it and stick them in my wallet -- the places I want to go and try out," he says. "And then I thought, 'I just wish there were an easier way to do this.' But also to know if my friends had been there or if they were out there right now."

Now, Crowley can fairly energetically act as the No. 1 spokesperson for Foursquare because he's also the No. 1 user:

According to friends (and Foursquare), he also likes to go out -- a lot. He prefers the fried pork chop at Brooklyn eatery Buttermilk Channel. He plays skeeball at Ace Bar. He does a summer share with friends in Montauk where he surfs but stopped recently after encountering a shark. "Very freaky," he said. He plays soccer in a pick-up league and has recently taken to training for a triathlon. He has 539 friends on Foursquare, and given his prolific hand at building friendships, chances are they're all palpably real. He's a shy but garrulous beast, an "intensely social icon," according to Frank Lantz, a professor and entrepreneur with whom Mr. Crowley had worked with.

Ad Age notes that despite its popularity--Foursquares's collected 10 million users in about two years--the company still doesn't have any revenue. But according to a recent report, Crowley's going to change all of that by selling Foursquare user data to merchants. "I'm hoping that we're going to be a profitable company relatively soon," Crowley told Bloomberg. "That will probably open up a number of doors for us."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.