Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley in June 2011.
The idea came to Dennis Crowley in a time of joblessness for him in 2002, at a time when many tech start-ups were failing.
“I was like, ‘How do you meet up with your unemployed friends so that you have something to do in the afternoon?’” Crowley said.
The founder of popular check-in service Foursquare, Crowley was one of 40 Syracuse University alumni who were inducted into the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications’ Professional Gallery on Saturday. He was also presented with a George Arents Award for Excellence in Social Media Innovation.
Crowley said he started to see all of the interesting things one could do with the archive of check-in data, such as performing predictive analyses with gathered business data and, more importantly for him, helping people find places.
It was then that he co-founded Dodgeball, a social-networking software in which users could text in their exact location. Thereafter, a user would be notified of their friends’ locations and suggestions of nearby places to visit.
Sound familiar? It should.
After Dodgeball was bought in 2005 and eventually discontinued by Google in 2009, Crowley moved on to his next project: Foursquare.
Formally launched in 2009, Foursquare is a free, location-based app that lets users check in at locations and see where their friends and family have checked in, all the while collecting virtual points, badges and extremely real discounts to stores and restaurants along the way.
Over 25 million people worldwide have checked in over 2.5 billion times as of September 2012, according to the company’s website. There are millions of check-ins every day.
Dozens of SU students attended Crowley’s two-and-a-half hour Idea Jam. This is a new trend at SU where young pioneers come together to talk about their ideas and how they can apply the resources that the university provides to turn these ideas into realities.
“I feel like the advice that I’m able to give students is advice I needed to get when I was in grad school,” Crowley said. “We had a hard time finding mentors — or people that knew what they were talking about — and people that could help us.”
Crowley, who holds a bachelor’s degree from SU and a master’s degree from New York University, said he wishes he had a mentor at NYU. He hopes he inspires others to be mentors for those in the beginning stages of a start-up company.
“If one of the people here actually makes it to the next level and ends up having a start-up and they can go and teach these lessons to other people because they learned it from me, then that’s fine,” he said.
Crowley offers those about to embark into the world-after-college to “do what you love and the rest will come,” something his mom has always told him.
“Sometimes the best job is the one that you make for yourself,” he said. “Maybe you can do your own thing. Sometimes it just takes a leap of faith to do it.”
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