From Bleecker Street Bar to General Assembly: Dennis Crowley Hits 5,000 Check-Ins

Dens, about fifteen minutes after his 5,000th check-in.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday, foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley reported his location via his cell phone for the 5,000th time. Betabeat was lucky enough to catch the moment–we’d just wandered in for the foursquare Global Hack Day demos and were approaching the sandy-haired CEO when we heard him proclaim the milestone, keyed in on a white iPhone with a not-so-subtle foursquare sticker on the back. We peeked over his shoulder at the four-digit number. It looked very round.

But not as round as the “0” next to it.

“You have zero mayorships?” Betabeat exclaimed.

Mr. Crowley nodded. “I used to have The Scratcher,” he said. “That was a good one.” The mayorship of the foursquare office is highly competitive, he and marketing pointwoman Erin Gleason agreed. “I think one of the engineers has it,” Ms. Gleason said.

Mr. Crowley’s 5,000 check-ins included the 800 or so updates imported from foursquare predecessor Dodgeball, he said. His first check-in was at Bleecker Street Bar in October 2003. He never paid much attention to check-in milestones until he saw foursquare users bragging about theirs on Twitter. Some foursquare superusers have 7,000 check-ins, he said.

Remarkable considering the violent reaction many had when location reporting services were new, a.k.a., “Why would you want your friends to know where you are?”

Mainstream perception was and is still the biggest challenge for foursquare, Mr. Crowley added. “As of all things social media. Why would you ever use Twitter? Why would you be on Facebook?”

Speaking of which, we asked what he thought of the social media giant’s retreat from the check-in wars. Facebook recently rolled back its Places feature, which originally resembled foursquare in that it required a check-in. Now Facebook’s location data will be attached to status updates, similar to Twitter. “They have their own thing carved out with photos and the news feed,” Mr. Crowley said. “We’ve just continued to own to check-in. We started with it and we stuck with it.”

The biggest hurdle for foursquare on the technical side is still GPS, Mr. Crowley said, echoing his chief product officer Alex Rainert. GPS drains mobile battery life, and it’s still embarrassingly inaccurate. But those inadequacies are getting better every year, Mr. Crowley said.

Meanwhile, the demos were getting started. We took our leave of the mayorship-less CEO and settled in on the floor. From Bleecker Street Bar to General Assembly: Dennis Crowley Hits 5,000 Check-Ins