July 05, 2010

Updated: Foursquare and Brizzly "Just Friends" For Now

Update: Following last night's post, Jason Shellen of Thing Labs, as well as Alex Rainert of Foursquare both said there was more smoke than fire to this and that the two companies are merely friends. I still think it'd be great if they tied the knot, so consider this a trial run.

Around noon on Sunday, Mike Hirshland of Polaris Venture Partners tweeted that it was "truly ironic" a startup would receive a buyout offer on "Independence Day". But what startup, what offer, and from where? Reading the tea leaves and looking at various updates, I am cautiously speculating there could be a bid for Thing Labs, the makers of Brizzly, from the red-hot geolocation startup, Foursquare.

Which Company Saw Fireworks This July 4?

Hirshland is a backer of Thing Labs, as is SoftTech VC's Jeff Clavier and Michael Jones, an angel investor. Polaris is also invested in a number of other tech firms, including Formspring, but a recent trip to Manhattan to Foursquare HQ by Thing Labs' founders Chris Wetherell (@CW) and Jason Shellen (@Shellen) suggests where there is smoke there is fire.

Signing Papers. For What?

This trip, which could have been as little as a social visit or a deeper partnership to integrate Foursquare data into Brizzly's client, was followed up by a tweet from Chris on the 4th, who said his Independence day was "filled with legalese and lawyers." While yes, this could be for anything, business or personal, one can connect the rumor dots and reach a tentative conclusion that something is afoot at Thing Labs, who recently launched Picnics, and has looked to differentiate itself from other Twitter clients, especially following Twitter's acquisition of Tweetie and parallel launch of a dedicated Android client, which sent aftershocks into the developer community.

Jason and Chris flew to New York on June 28th to meet with Foursquare on the 29th, and returned on the 30th, if their updates on Twitter are any indication. The visit on the 29th just so happened to coincide with the day Foursquare announced their raise of $20 million in a series B investment, giving them plenty of cash (or stock equivalent at a new valuation) to pick up Thing Labs. The company most recently picked up $600k in funding in November of 2009 bringing total funding to just over $2 million.

Jason and Chris Set off to NYC to See Foursquare

Chris Reports It's A Nice Place!

The talent behind Brizzly, without question, is world class. Jason and Chris specifically have years of experience ranging from Blogger to Google Reader, and they sport a supporting staff with a pedigree including more ex-Googlers, including Ben Darnell, who briefly spent time at FriendFeed and later, Facebook. The idea of pointing that talent at Foursquare and its mountain of check-in data, assuming my speculation has any merit, is intriguing, and could lead to new clients and new ways to rank the world of real-time geo-location.

Looks Like the Trip to Manhattan Was Fruitful?

Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, in explaining their investment in Foursquare, cited a leading CEO with Dennis Crowley (@dens), a killer product, and a gigantic market. They didn't say anything about the potential to use the money toward acquisitions, and Dennis has been spending time at the World Cup in South Africa this week, while Jason has taken a few days off on vacation himself, if photos from the lake with his sons are any indication. So it could be this speculation is dead on arrival. But it is clear the Foursquare team and Brizzly are close, and Mike's got an acquisition potentially on his hands somewhere.

Why not let it be two amazing companies combining to crown the winner in geolocation? Of note, I did e-mail Chris on the subject earlier Sunday and did not receive a response. A direct message to Jason about the possibility of the two companies joining forces sent earlier in the week went unanswered. I have not yet reached out to Foursquare or the VCs behind the company.

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