We recently wrote about our search for native mobile applications, which we defined as applications that simply were not possible previously (as opposed to making something that already exists online accessible via mobile). We have also long been interested in gameplay (Zynga and Heyzap) and in local information (outside.in). We were therefore thrilled to find an opportunity that combines all three and are pleased to announce our investment in Foursquare.
Foursquare allows you to "check in" at a venue (via the iphone app, the mobile site, or SMS). Your check in is broadcast to your friends, which is a great way to let them know where you are. For most people, a conscious act of sharing is a lot less worrisome than an ongoing broadcast of location. By checking in, you also participate in various levels of game play. First, there are badges to unlock which provide a fun and unexpected reward for different types of behavior (like staying out late!). Second, foursquare rewards loyalty to a venue and if you really go somewhere a lot you may become the "mayor" of that location. In other words, checking in is both useful (signal) and fun (badges, mayorships).
Foursquare in turn uses check-ins to generate interesting local information. Some of it is explicit, such as the "shouts" that people can add to a check-in or the tips that they can leave for friends. A lot of it is implicit based on patterns of check-ins. Foursquare is already making some of that information available through an API with some first applications already built, such as SocialGreat. It is still early days, but as more people check in, Foursquare will generate more information, which in turn can be used to make future check ins more valuable.
There are many additional goodies coming soon, such as a native app for the Blackberry. We look forward to working with the foursquare team -- Dennis Crowley, Naveen Selvadurai and Harry Heymann -- when we are not busy fighting for the Mayorship of Whichcraft!