Microsoft’s $15 Million Check-in: Will Redmond Buy Foursquare?

foursquare-iconMicrosoft has invested $15 million in Foursquare and said it will license the former’s location data according to news released yesterday. Foursquare aspires to be “the location layer for the internet.”

With real-time feedback about local data accuracy, based on user movements and check-ins, Foursquare is becoming a stronger and stronger source of local information. However I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the notion that Foursquare’s data are the most accurate in the market. Google and Yelp may still have better data — although I suspect Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley would dispute that.

Microsoft has reportedly signed a multi-year agreement to license Foursquare data for both mobile and Bing on the PC.

Foursquare now claims 60 million “entries” and 5 billion check-ins. Recent estimates put Foursquare users at roughly 45 million. Beyond this the company is doing some of the most interesting things in local around social recommendations and with combining online and offline data.

The Microsoft relationship and investment gives the New York based local discovery app additional credibility at a time when many are wondering what the endgame for the company is. According to the Wall Street Journal the company’s current valuation is roughly $650 million. Its revenues are estimated to be between $15 and $20 million, “up from about $2 million in 2012,” according to the WSJ piece.

If those revenue figures are accurate and that growth is real Foursquare might have a shot at an IPO down the line. I still believe however that the company is ultimately a takeover target. I had thought the best fit was with Yahoo but Microsoft’s equity stake brings Redmond, under the new leadership of Satya Nadella, into the picture as a potential suitor.

Microsoft, among others, tried and failed to buy Facebook at one point. Mindful of that experience and missed opportunity, Foursquare might be a very attractive target, offering a marriage of mobile, social and location — at a time when Microsoft needs to generate more traction in mobile.