February 5, 2014
Microsoft And Foursquare To Partner On Mobile Location Data
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Microsoft has made a $15 million strategic investment in location-based services startup Foursquare, and the two firms have entered into a multi-year commercial licensing deal that will allow Foursquare’s extensive location data to be worked into Microsoft’s products.“This is a big deal for us,” said Foursquare chief executive officer Dennis Crowley, who confirmed the investment during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
The funding will be added to the $35 million investment round Foursquare announced late last year, which valued the company at more than $600 million.
Under the terms of the partnership, Foursquare's dataset, which already powers location services on popular apps such as Instagram and Pinterest, will be used in Microsoft services such as its mobile operating system and Bing search engine. It may also be used as part of Microsoft’s voice-activated assistant, code-named Cortana, which seeks to challenge Apple’s Siri technology, according to a Bloomberg News report citing sources with knowledge of the deal.
Cortana is scheduled to be part of the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release.
“This is huge validation for the stuff we’ve been working so hard on,” Crowley said. “It’s one of the leaders in the space we work in looking at us and saying we can really help power the next generation of devices.”
Although Crowley did not disclose how much the contract is worth, the deal makes Microsoft Foursquare’s single largest data licensee, giving the software giant access to more of Foursquare’s data than any other partners receive, Bloomberg reported.
But Crowley noted that the deal is not exclusive, and does not change the terms of existing deals with other firms that receive its data.
New York-based Foursquare has collected vast amounts of data about more than 60 million restaurants, shops and other points of interest in multiple cities. Much of that data has been submitted by the app’s 45 million subscribers, who use Foursquare’s services to broadcast their location and receive discounts and tips on the places they visit.
That type of data could help Microsoft generate smarter search results, or ping Windows Mobile users whenever they are near a restaurant they might like.
“We’re building some contextually aware experiences to power some upcoming products in Windows Phone,” Zig Serafin, vice president of Microsoft’s Bing search unit, told Bloomberg.
“This will be for anywhere you get a Bing-powered experience.”
Including Microsoft’s $15 million investment, Foursquare has raised a total of $121 million in venture capital, and $41 million in debt financing.
Crowley said that the firm’s data licensing deals are becoming a significant part of its revenue stream.
“We think about it like, with the best stuff we’re working on, how do we make it more accessible to other companies?” he said.
“If anything, this [partnership with Microsoft] will illustrate how companies can improve existing products with Foursquare data. It’s a starting point.”