Who Will Buy Foursquare?
Who will buy foursquare?
Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen some fairly sizable acquisitions in the online space, especially amongst services or apps that are deemed to be “social.” Whether it be Instagram which Facebook bought for a billion dollars, Twitter acquiring companies Tweetie & Tweetdeck, Microsoft acquiring Yammer for USD 1.2 billion, Salesforce buying Buddy Media for USD 689 million or Google’s recent acquisition of iOS and Mac mail client, Sparrow, it looks like the wave of expensive M&A’s is going to continue,
There was speculation recently as to whether Apple would be bidding for Twitter and this led to fierce reactions from various corners but if we are looking at “social” apps and what most smartphone vendors seem to to be talking about, then location based services seem to be the flavour of the month.
Whether you look at Apple, Microsoft, Google or Facebook, they’ve all played with location based services in some shape or form. The question then arises that if location based services is the future, who will buy Foursquare, as they are probably the most popular social, location-based service that exists (to learn more about Foursquare, click here).
The contenders have to be the usual suspects, whether it be Google, Apple, Microsoft/Nokia, Facebook or Twitter.
What does each one bring to the table and why should they bother?
For Google, they have probably been the company that has made the biggest inroads in moving towards location based services as they’ve had one of the most comprehensive mapping solutions whether it be Google Maps, Google Earth or any one of the multitude of Google Apps that exist. Google already owns Zagat and Frommer’s, which both essentially were companies that provided guides of what to do and where to eat. However, the tricky part for them has always been how to say, who else out of your friends has eaten at the same restaurant as you. Google’s own social network, Google+, hasn’t been able to establish itself in the way Google would’ve hoped so for Google to tell you that your friends have recommended a destination or been to the same place as you has proved troublesome. Foursquare plugs in perfectly here because it has a sizable user-base and could just be what Google needs to get Google+ going if they decide to integrate Foursquare within Google+.
For Apple, they have obviously tried to be social and failed. The most noticeable example of this was Ping, the music-based social network that resides in iTunes. Apple has had to bite to bullet of late and in the latest versions of iOS, they have added integration of Twitter and then Facebook into the operating system. Apple also in the next release of iOS has said they will drop Google Maps and have developed their own mapping tool. With the addition of Siri though, Apple’s really had to highlight the strength of their location based services. What is clear though is that even a resource rich company like Apple needs outside assistance to get Siri going. Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango or IMDb are all being used by Apple to make Siri smarter. One of the smartest tools to integrate into would be Foursquare as they already have information about what’s nearby and could also tell you who out of your contacts or friends has been there.
Microsoft / Nokia
Microsoft is desperate to make Windows 8 work, whether it be on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. After teaming up with Nokia, Microsoft got access to Navteq, which is a mapping company that most GPS manufacturers around the world get their content from. Navteq is unique in that it allowed to catch up with Google Maps very quickly and strengthening their own Bing search engine. Nokia is also attempting a comeback at the moment and apart from their operating system, location based services are a cornerstone to their future success. However, it’s no point having the best engine in your car if you’ve got nowhere to drive to. This is where Foursquare could be important for a Microsoft / Nokia camp as it would immediately give them access to even more mapping content and a user base.
If Foursquare were to fail, then it should’ve happened a few years ago when Facebook developed Places, a clone to Foursquare. As much as Facebook marketed this, it never really took off and Facebook stopped promoting this as aggressively as they once were. Somewhere though in the back of their mind, you can picture Mark Zuckerburg looking at Foursquare and thinking to himself, what will it take to buy this company out. After all, if Facebook can spend a billion dollars on Instagram, then you would imagine, they would be prepared to pay a chunk of change for Foursquare. Further, the advertising streams that Facebook could develop as a result of this acquisition would no doubt provide additional incentive for this to happen.
Twitter needs a revenue stream. As popular as they are, they are struggling to capitalize on this by putting money in the bank. Foursquare has got potentially a solution to help their revenue woes as there are opportunities to advertise and target those advertisements to the right people. Foursquare already integrates into Twitter so technically they’re a good match. If not, Twitter would have to look at how they grow in the future. There have already been rumors circulating about Apple’s interest in Twitter but something will have to give way so Twitter has to either grow larger to grow their reach or be integrated into someone else’s ecosystem.
Foursquare could potentially be a prized asset for anyone of the above companies if they acquired it. However, this doesn’t mean others won’t be interested in it if it was ever up for sale. The beauty of Foursquare is that it is platform independent and works just as well on Android as it does on iOS, Windows Phone 7 or BlackBerry OS. A rival social network would probably benefit most from Foursquare but for an ecosystem that looking to differentiate, Foursquare again offers a lot of opportunities. Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be for a good chunk of change and the founders and investors in Foursquare will be smiling for a long time to come.