Foursquare and American Express

I was out for a few drinks on Friday evening and unlocked my first Foursquare/American Express special. The connection between your location, the merchant, and American Express, all facilitated by Foursquare, is incredibly powerful.

It reminded me of an idea I pitched to American Express during a long series of job interviews back in 2007, while Foursquare’s founders were still working at Google. This was four months after the first iPhone hit the market, and well before the App Store was introduced.

Amex was keen to know what I thought the next market trend would be, and I immediately said “mobile” and pointed them to Dennis Crowley, now the founder of Foursquare, and said “just watch whatever he’s doing.” At the time, Dennis’ last company, Dodgeball, had been bought by Google, so I fully assumed that we’d see Google+Dodgeball rather than Foursquare. They wanted more, so I pitched them this:

Smartphones are going to become an integral piece of peoples’ lives, and as they tie further to location, Amex is presented with a unique opportunity to increase card-spend by aggregating purchase data and using it to make suggestions to cardmembers based on location.

For instance, if I’m a Platinum Card holder traveling to Phoenix for business, I may need to take some clients out to dinner. But I’ve never been to Phoenix, so I have no idea where to take them. I could rely on Zagat or a similar product, but what I’d rather know is where other Platinum Card members like to take business colleagues for dinner.

The beauty is that you have all this data. By anonymizing and aggregating cardmember and card spend data, you can start building a platform now that’s ready to perform when technology inevitably catches up and becomes more location-aware.

I didn’t get the job. But it was fun to see that there is indeed now a partnership between Crowley and American Express. More importantly, I’m firmly convinced that we’ve only explored the first 1-2% of the location space and am looking forward to helping create what’s next.

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