Foursquare Morale Hits A New Low And Employees Look For Ways Out

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Taken by Mari Sheibley, provided by Foursquare

It's been a tough year for Foursquare. Rumors of a difficult time raising funds, stalled growth and low revenue figures have all hit the press. 

Sources both in and around the company say the negativity is starting to take a toll on investors and employees. Morale is low and employees are looking for ways out. Investors have been patient but in recent weeks, that patience has worn thin. And the company's leadership isn't doing enough to put fears to rest.

"A lot of people are looking to leave," a source says.

When asked how bad morale had gotten another replied, "it's not TERRIBLE, but employees are definitely slightly more worried than before."

One source was more drastic: "The building is on fire."

Part of the problem is an irritation with Foursquare's upper management. One described Evan Cohen, Foursquare's general manager, as being "in denial" about the business, and not helping CEO Dennis Crowley lead enough, although he was integral to the company's fundraising process.

Crowley, who has always shared a lot about his personal life online, is continuing to do so despite his company's struggles. While his twitter feed is made up of a lot of Foursquare content, it's also dominated by pictures of Crowley running, relaxing or vacationing with friends. To some, it seems inappropriate.

"I think he lacks self awareness which is the issue ultimately," one person said of Crowley. "You don't tweet about all your travels when things are hard. I'm not saying he isn't deserving of a life but keep it private."

"He works hard, and he's actually trying to live by the wisdom of people like Brad Feld and Brad Horowitz who go on about a life-balance," another says. "But he needs to pull it back a bit."

Friends say it's just Dennis being Dennis, that he isn't flaunting or being pretentious. He's shared almost every aspect of his life online since college. "He just loves to share," one says. "But he should, of course, do a little bit less of that."

Another hit to Foursquare's morale was the Tumblr sale.

Tumblr and Foursquare are the two big social media startups of New York. They're compared to each other in the tech world despite being completely different businesses. The two even went head-to-head for office space, eyeing the same floor on 568 Broadway.

Yahoo seemed a natural acquirer for Foursquare. But now that it chose to buy Tumblr for $1.1 billion, it seems unlikely Marissa Mayer will hand out two giant social media checks.

"The Tumblr thing has folks' eyes open a bit," one person says. "It's a lot of money and folks have worked very hard over the four years at Foursquare."

Of course, Foursquare's success or failure won't be determined by a competitor's acquisition or Dennis Crowley's tweets. It will depend on Foursquare figuring out growth and monetization once and for all. Revenue is continuing to tick up month over month and the company is averaging 5 million check-ins per day (6 million on weekends). Its web traffic is on the rise with 50 million people visiting each month. But investors always want to see more growth.

"The round is done, Foursquare has time. But investors are looking for action, absolutely," one person says. "The bulk of the employees know, this time around, time is short and they have to do something. And that's not a 100% bad way for them to feel."

Foursquare declined to comment for this story.



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