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What Would Foursquare Look Like If It Had Been Founded By A Woman?

More like Pinterest, says one entrepreneur.

Foursquare’s future may lie in search and discovery, but its game is what enabled both. Every time users check in to a location, the company learns something new about their preferences and those places. It’s Foursquare’s game that built its database.

There’s just one problem, says Rebekah Campbell, the founder of a new location service called Posse. "That game was designed by guys for guys."

Women, she argues, are most interested in social recommendations—and they’re finding popular Foursquare places have the best turf wars, not the best businesses.

Posse, which asks users to create lists of their favorite places, uses a different kind of game to built its database: status.

"If you share all of the top bars that you’ve discovered in San Francisco," Campbell says, "the fact that you built that list, a lot of it is about being able to say to your friends, 'I’ve been to San Francisco. I travel there quite regularly and I go to all of these cool bars.' Or if you make a playlist of bookshops you’ve discovered around the world, a lot of that is saying, ‘I travel, and I read books, and I go to these shops. Women compete as well, but we find it’s a lot more about signaling lifestyle status."

Posse’s lists aren’t plain. Users add places to illustrated "streets." If the street is about New York City, it might have a background filled with skyscrapers. If it's about yoga studios, there might be mountains and a Buddha statue. Each shop is a customized illustration that, if the business has signed up, incorporates its logo.

Completing a street creates the same kind of satisfaction as curating a beautiful Pinterest board. And that's why, Campbell says, 71% of users recommend five or more places to their friends.

Designing Posse’s game around status signals rather than check-ins, works also works well for merchants. Since users are making lists only for their favorite places, for the most part, they leave only positive reviews. Shops that join Posse, about 25,000 of them so far, can send coupons to users who add them to streets and wishlists for a subscription fee of $50 to $100 per month.

Posse's pretty streets fix a problem that an app called Livestar once tried to solve by having users ask their friends for reviews (it has since been acquired by Pinterest and shut down) and another called Stamped tried to solve by making it super easy to recommend things (it has since been acquired by Yahoo and shut down).

"They all had the idea that it would be really cool to see your friends’ favorite places, but they never quite figured out why people were actually going to tell the platform what their favorite places were to begin with," Campbell says."That’s where they all seem to get tripped up."

[Update: We clarified the language in the headline of this story. Mari Sheibley, a woman, was Foursquare's first designer, hired by founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai. Sheibley left in November 2012.]

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    I thought that you all were talking about The Foursquare Gospel Church not a game.

  • Kathy Bergquist

    The jive I get when I read this is that men and women don't work together...ever.  This is commentary writing, not reporting.  With commentary writing, assumption take president, not facts and research.  As far as I'm concerned, this is a blog post that someone gets paid to write just to fill space and make them seem important when clearly they are just another face in the crowd.

  • Are You Serious

    Take this story down. It's offensive and discriminatory, not to mention ill-conceived and stupid. 

  • Katie

    There's a strange insinuation here that women can only design (in the wider sense) for other women. What I think you mean is 'What if Foursquare was designed to the stereotypical idea of what women want in an app'. (Yes, it'd probably look a lot like Posse, which doesn't appeal in the slightest to me personally.) Same as how Pinterest was designed by a man to appeal to the supposed characteristics of women. It doesn't matter WHO designed it, it matters who it's designed FOR.

  • Seamus Condron

    These "changes" are hilarious. "That game was designed by guys for guys.” 

    Furthermore, UI styles evolve over time. Saying Foursquare would have looked like Pinterest if it were designed by not only false because a woman DID design it, but the "tiles" UI style didn't become prevalent until Pinterest launched much later. Now everyone copies it. It's got nothing to do with gender — it's about the evolution of design.

    Also, Pinterest was initially designed by A MAN.

  • Ben Brocka

    I really hate the "what if a woman designed something instead", as if there were two possible designs for all things; the man design and the woman design. There is no "what would foursquare look like if a woman designed it", there is only what foursquare would look like if this specific woman designed it. If I had 50 women mock up Foursquare I would have 50 different designs.

  • Seamus Condron

    And Pinterest was designed by a man. Can we just blow this whole story off the face of the Internet and start over?

  • Erin

    Why does everything "for women" have to look like it's for children? Enough of the cartoons, pink cardigans, and hearts.

  • Balu Chandrasekaran

    I can kinda see what Rebekah Campbell is saying. Yes, 4SQ was "designed" by Mari Sheibley if you define design as UI/UX, but she's referring to the fact that 4SQ was mainly conceptualized by Dennis and Naveen. Sure, Mari had a hand in shaping the product, but the core ideas and tenets in the product may have already been in place when she decided to join Dennis and Naveen for their "cool project". 

  • Veronica Wong

    I understand that, but who's to say that Mari Sheibley's design input didn't help to shape what the product became? Not only that, the functionality that Rebekah Campbell describes could easily apply to a man or a woman, rather than a product designed specifically for women, by women.

    For example, when she says "they never quite figured out why people were actually going to tell the platform what their favorite places were to begin with." This is a design problem that lives outside of any specific gender. 

  • l8rdrew

    Just because the product visionaries were men, doesn't mean the design is "by men for men." Foursquare's first product manager is a woman, Siobhan Quinn. And we've already established that Foursquare's first designer was a woman. As was another one of their designers, Courtney. For another entrepreneur to assume their voices made no impact in the product is bananas. It only shows the narrowness of their own thoughts around gender and work. 

  • Tyler Fastcompany Gray

    I hope the edits and note we just added makes the point here clearer. 

  • Seamus Condron

    No. You really should have ended this story and apologized for publishing it.

  • Tyler Fastcompany Gray

    You are correct. Mari Sheibley was the first and left in Nov. 2012. We've changed the headline and added a note to clarify that in the story. Thanks for the comment.


  • Prmeehan

    Um. Come on. You can do better than this. Are you telling me this:

    Is in any way accurate? Foursquare was designed by a woman, Pinterest by a man. I'm frightened to think of what the headline read as BEFORE you changed it.

  • Seamus Condron

    It was "What if Foursquare had been designed by a woman?" Fun fact: It was.

  • l8rdrew

    And her protege in visual design is also a woman, Courtney Christopher: &

    Thank you fast co. for overlooking those facts, and perpetuating a horrible gender bias by discounting their awesome work and pushing sensationalist "journalism" for the purpose of attracting eyeballs.