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Foursquare is close to finalizing a funding round that will value the company at about $250 million — less than half of what investors thought the company was worth two years ago.
Sources say the startup, which makes apps that let you find local restaurants and stores and "check in" to them, has also talked to potential buyers. So it could still conceivably sell instead of finishing up the funding, which should raise at least $20 million and as much as $40 million.
Sources say at least one new investor will participate in this round; previous investors include DFJ Growth, Microsoft, Silver Lake Partners, Spark Capital, Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
In 2013, Foursquare raised $35 million in a round that valued the company at about $650 million.
A Foursquare rep declined to comment.
TechCrunch previously reported that Foursquare was looking to raise a "down round," which will reduce the value of stakes held by previous investors, as well as employees with equity. Foursquare has raised a reported $121 million prior to the new round.
Foursquare, which used to be one of New York's buzziest startups, launched in 2009 as a social service that let you tell friends what bar or restaurant you were hanging out at — the same concept as Dodgeball, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley's previous company. Foursquare eventually evolved into an ad-supported service that was meant to help you find places to eat, drink or shop, and last summer Crowley said the company had 50 million active users.
But while Crowley has said Foursquare could make real money from advertising, its growth has never matched its valuation, a reality the company and its backers are now tacitly conceding.
Crowley has also spent the past few years talking up the company's data assets, accumulated via its users' travels. That data could theoretically be valuable to a big platform company like Microsoft, which has already invested in Foursquare, or Twitter, which is already using Foursquare to power its location function. And if Foursquare forges ahead as a standalone company, it will try using that data to build up new revenue streams.
—By Peter Kafka, Re/code.net.
CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.