Foursquare’s Happy Growing Pains

dennis crowley getty Foursquare’s Happy Growing Pains

Foursquare headquarters have been cramped this summer. The fast-growing location-based check-in service, which has been subleasing space from Curbed on the fifth floor of 36 Cooper Square since they moved out of founder Dennis Crowley’s kitchen, started the year with just five employees, and has since ballooned to 30. In May they were forced to temporarily pitch a tent two floors down from their main space and work from desks and couches borrowed from The Village Voice. “We were basically in their lounge space, at like pop-up tables,” said Erin Gleason, who came on in May as publicist and office manager. “Some people were on couches; I was at a high table with a bar stool.”

This Friday, all that coziness will finally come to an end when the Foursquare team takes over the sixth floor, which totals 7,600 square feet, including space being subleased to Curbed and the web design firm Hard Candy Shell. Mr. Crowley said there will initially be some 20 free desks, but those will fill up fast as he hopes to soon be hiring three or four new people per month.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Crowley said the space shortage has been not just inconvenient but detrimental to Foursquare’s evolution: Because there was no room for additional people, the arduous task of scaling the service to accommodate the surge of users proved so time-consuming that the team had to officially stop work on developing new features.

“There are three or four big-ticket items we’ve been talking about all summer,” Mr. Crowley said. “All the specs are written–they’re waiting there, like half of the designs are done–but they just haven’t been implemented because we don’t have an engineer that could work on it full time.”

Finding talent fast won’t be easy. New York engineers are in demand, and the best have their pick of high-paying Wall Street jobs. To help with the effort, Foursquare enlisted tech recruiters, and they’re looking to hire an in-house headhunter.

In general, Mr. Crowley said, Foursquare has grown a “lot more mature” in its internal operations since the service exploded in popularity following this year’s South by Southwest festival. “Before we were just kind of making stuff–it was like the Wild West,” he said. Now people work in groups and there’s a strategy in place for who sits next to whom. “It’s a big grown-up step for the company.”

One new weapon in Foursquare’s arsenal is a handsome new white board.

“The fact that we have a giant white board now is a big deal to people!” said Ms. Gleason, who has been overseeing the move upstairs. “Or when the lounge furniture started coming together, it was like, ‘Whoa, real conference rooms, with chairs!'”

Foursquare recently raised $20 million in venture capital, putting the company’s value at an estimated $95 million.

lneyfakh@observer.com