News Column

Foursquare Co-founder's Advice To MIT Boot Camp: Make What People Want

Sept. 27, 2011

Donna Goodison


Naveen Selvadurai will be "checking in" at today's Startup Bootcamp at MIT.

The Foursquare co-founder, along with the creators of Cloudkick, Kayak, Airbnb, Convore, Dropbox, Stripe, Quora, Hype Machine and Quizlet, are featured speakers at the free event.

Selvadurai launched Foursquare's location-based mobile application in 2009, and it now has more than 10 million users. Yesterday he offered insight for other entrepreneurs looking to start companies. His best advice: "just go out and make something."

"Too often, people are too consumed about the other things that are part of the company -- raising money, building a team," Selvadurai said. "Make something that people want first. That's exactly what we did with Foursquare: We built it, we got it out to friends to use, and then launched it, and the rest of the world used it. Everything else fell behind it."

Getting connected to the local tech community also is key, Selvadurai said.

"You hang out with a really smart crowd of people ... and that will help you do really smart, great things," he said. "Bounce your ideas off people and seek mentors, because there are a lot of things that are unknown. You may be good as an engineer, but you might not know how to hire."

Foursquare passed its one billionth check-in last week, and its List feature -- which debuted in August on the Web and allows users to share tips with friends -- launched on its mobile app this week.

Other technology that has grabbed Selvadurai's attention includes SoundTracking, a mobile app that lets users identify and find the music that they hear playing and share a playable song snippet, photo and location with friends. The Wunderlist task-manager app also is a favorite, as is Foursquare badge partner Health Month, an online social game that helps people set and meet health goals.

"The classic start-ups that I'm really interested in are health-related," said Selvadurai, 29 and a Worcester Polytechnic Institute master's grad. "A lot of people have trouble with their health, and some people need a coach. What better way to use technology and help us as humans than something like this?"

Source: (c)2011 the Boston Herald

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