Foursquare's Yelp Problem
My hunch is that TechCrunch got this one right: Foursquare is going to get some more money soon, and the terms won’t be awful — not a down round, but not an exuberant one, either.
The last time Foursquare raised, back in June 2011, it was reportedly valued at $600 million. You can debate how far the company has or hasn’t come since then. But beyond its own issues, it is now dealing with another set of factors when it asks big investors for money: The public markets.
There was the Facebook IPO, of course, which let the air out of many consumer Internet companies’ valuations. But for Foursquare, the most important IPO of last year was Yelp.
The good news is that the local reviews service has held up, price-wise, better than just about any other recent big-name Web IPO except for LinkedIn. The bad news for Foursquare is that, as far as the market is concerned, Yelp seems to be worth something in the $1.5 billion range, and not much more. At $25, where it opened today, it’s worth $1.6 billion.
CEO Dennis Crowley might bristle at the Yelp comparison — “location layer for the Internet” sounds much more ambitious, and a good way to slay those haters — but until he can prove otherwise, most check-writers are going to view Foursquare as Yelp with badges. (Pretty sure the Yelp guys do.)
So if you put money into Foursquare at $600M two years ago, and its public comp is trading at 2.6x, you probably feel okay about that. But if you go much higher than that, it’s a different story.