Foursquare buys Snap’s location platform

Location data is one of the most important, but impossible challenges in the ad-tech space: it’s one of the only ways to be sure that customers actually responded after seeing an ad on social media, online, or elsewhere. 

Foursquare, which started as a location sharing and tracking service, has morphed into a juggernaut in the location data space without raising so much as an eyebrow. 

Now it’s acquired Placed, a Snap (yes, Snapchat) company that provided attribution technology to track the physical impact of advertising, and how many people campaigns drive to stores.

This process is called ‘attribution’ and it’s the magic trick that makes it actually possible to understand if customers converted in the real world. It’s a hard science, given that many of these campaigns span mobile and desktop, as well as users on the move, and navigating various different mobile platform rules.

Foursquare, with Placed, appears to have a huge advantage in this space; it has access to a huge array of partners in Twitter, Snap, Pandora, Waze, and more. For $150 million, Placed’s technology has to be good.

Both Facebook and Google, despite capturing the majority of digital advertising spend, are notoriously bad at accurately matching customers with the campaigns they’ve seen. This matters, because companies spending millions on ads want to see that they’ve successfully driven foot traffic, or they’re at risk of reducing their spend.

Look, this is all in the weeds, but this is the kind of technology that makes digital advertising less of an opaque science. But, what remains astounding is that Foursquare literally flipped its business model on its head, from discovery to data mining, and users of its consumer-facing products, which are very transparently monitoring their behavior for analysis, remain perfectly happy. 

The most surprising part about this story is that Snap is offloading Placed so quickly. The company has long touted its power to draw consumers to physical spaces, which made it a natural fit, so what went wrong when it had just acquired Placed in 2017

There’s very little out there about this, but when it acquired Placed, it originally touted that the tools that came in tow would justify Snap advertising to clients. Perhaps that didn’t pan out, but it’s more likely that the company just found a quick way to offload a valuable asset, while it refocuses on fixing its core business instead.

Event reminder: WWDC on Monday

Apple’s WWDC, its yearly developer event is on Monday, which I’ll update you about on Tuesday. You can stream it here at 10 AM San Francisco / 1 PM New York / 6 PM London time.

It’s expected that it’ll unveil an array of things, including:

  1. A new, modular Mac Pro for ‘professionals.’ After endless years of waiting, rumors point to a new high-end desktop for frustrated users of the ‘trash can’ design. 
  2. Project ‘Marzipan’ should finally arrive, Apple’s push to bring iOS apps to Mac that was previously previewed as a part of macOS Mojave. The company hopes to revive development by making it easy to port apps, but it’s remained coy on the actual details.
  3. Dark mode for everything, and updated apps for Maps, Reminders and Messages. Also, probably a new home screen for the iPad (please make this actually be happening).
  4. The final versions of Apple’s new services, including the Arcade subscription and Apple TV+, which were previewed at its March event.

Tab Dump

Slack isn’t public yet, but its Q1 earnings were incredibly strong
67% revenue growth to $134 million, which isn’t bad given it lost ‘just’ $31 million in the same quarter. Compared to a company like Uber, which lost $1B in the same quarter, it looks pretty good. 

Maine just passed a bill blocking ISPs from selling user data
How do we make this standard for every internet provider, please?

Taylor Lorenz breaks down the difference between creators and influencers

Good read: A deep dive into how Qualcomm shook down the cell phone business