Foursquare pioneered the trend of 'checking-in' to a place — now it sells access to its data to companies

Key Points
  • Foursquare provides technology, data and other business services to some of the biggest brands in the world, including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung
  • About 50 million people use Foursquare Swarm and Foursquare City Guide apps each month
Foursquare joins with WeChat to expand location services outside of China
Foursquare joins with WeChat to expand location services outside of China

Foursquare has gone from a social media app that let users broadcast their favorite bars or restaurants online by "checking-in," to a company that provides location-based data to some of the biggest retail names in the world: Apple, Microsoft and Samsung to name a few.

Recently, the company signed a partnership with Chinese online travel booking service Ctrip. Now, travelers booking their trips outside China with Ctrip can get recommendations on attractions to visit, restaurants to eat at and general city guides — all based on Foursquare data.

"That's a typical partnership for us with Chinese companies," Jeff Glueck, CEO of Foursquare, told CNBC.

"We do the same for Tencent, but Ctrip is obviously a giant player in Chinese travel and we're excited to bring them onto the Foursquare global location platform," he added.

In Asia Pacific, Foursquare has partnerships with brands like Tencent's WeChat and QQ, Samsung, LG, Singapore-based Carousell and more.

In just nine years since the company was created, Foursquare has amassed billions of check-in data in about 105 million places across some 160 countries. Currently, it has two consumer-facing applications and it also provides commercial services to enterprises.

CEO at Foursquare Jeff Glueck speaks onstage at the Kairos Society Global Summit At One World Observatory on April 21, 2017 in New York City.
Brad Barket | Getty Images

First is the Foursquare City Guide app that allows users to find new places, with recommendations from other users. The second app is an extension of the 'check-in' game that underscored its initial popularity: Foursquare Swarm lets users score real-world perks every day by checking into places, and they can also pick up bragging rights such as being crowned "mayor" of a specific location.

Currently, more than 50 million people use Foursquare platforms each month, according to the company's website.

The vast data generated are then packed into valuable insights for brands through the Foursquare Location Intelligence business. Foursquare provides technology, data and other business services to developers and companies to build their own specific location-aware apps, understand their consumers better and connect with target audiences and measure foot traffic and advertising success.

It also powers location data for Apple, Uber, Twitter, Microsoft, Samsung and about 100,000 other developers, according to the company.

"With all that treasure-trove of mapping data from 12 billion check-ins, we've been able to map and detect sort of the fingerprint of every business in the world," said Glueck.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify Foursquare's business model.