- Foursquare, the location tracking company that started as a social network for mobile check-ins, merged with rival Factual to combine their expertise in using smartphone data for targeted advertising. The combined companies will have yearly revenue of $150 million and operate in more than 20 countries, per a blog post announcing the deal.
- Following the merger with Factual, Foursquare will have data on more than 500 million devices worldwide and a panel of 25 million opted-in, always-on users and more than 14 billion user-confirmed check-ins. The company will also have data on more than 105 million points of interest among 190 countries and 50 territories, according to the announcement.
- Foursquare CEO David Shim will lead the combined companies after the deal closes, while Factual founder Gil Elbaz will serve on the management team and board with executive chairman Dennis Crowley, a co-founder of Foursquare. Shim last year became CEO after Foursquare bought Placed, the location tracking company he founded in 2011, from Snapchat parent Snap.
Foursquare's merger with Factual creates a location data stalwart that aims to help mobile marketers improve their ad targeting and reach on-the-go consumers. While the COVID-19 pandemic recently has limited people's movements as they stay home and practice social distancing, Foursquare will be well positioned for growth when the outbreak subsides and people return to everyday activities.
"There's no question now that these two have created the dominant location intelligence company," Greg Sterling, VP of market insights at location marketing company Uberall, said in a statement to Mobile Marketer. "The combined revenue numbers are smaller than expected and the merger may have been compelled to some degree by the current climate. But this will put pressure on other companies in the space and will likely pave the way for additional acquisitions or consolidation."
While Foursquare lets advertisers target audience groups, Factual's underlying dataset is better, Shim said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Foursquare's key strength is in attribution, ad effectiveness and app developer tools, he said. Oracle, Roku and The Trade Desk are among the companies whose digital ad platforms are integrated with location data from Factual or Foursquare. Foursquare's data and technology support the mobile platforms of Snap, Twitter and Uber, the Journal reported.
The merger with Factual is the latest step in Foursquare's evolution from a social network that first let people share their locations with friends to earn digital badges. The company in 2014 split its services into two main apps: the Foursquare City Guide that resembles Yelp with user-generated reviews of local businesses, and Swarm that has evolved into a "life-logging" app from its initial focus on mobile check-ins. Last year, Foursquare disclosed annual revenue of $100 million when it acquired Placed from Snap, TechCrunch reported.
Location-based marketing, which former WPP CEO Martin Sorrell once described as the "holy grail" for advertising, can reach consumers when they're most ready to shop, dine out or visit an entertainment venue. That targeting power is expected to drive yearly spending on location analytics to $15 billion by 2023 from $8.35 billion in 2017, data company Placer.ai said in a study cited by Bloomberg. However, the collection, dissemination and use of location data has also faced privacy scrutiny from cities and states, potentially shunting its effectiveness.