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Follow your Heart: an interview with Dennis Crowley

Being an entrepreneur doesn't mean you have to go it alone. Most successful business owners will tell you they could not have accomplished their goals without help--from a mentor, colleague, even mom and dad. For many, their ability to evaluate, internalize and act on the counsel they received was instrumental in getting their companies off the ground. We sat down with Foursquare CEO, Dennis Crowley to tell us a couple of things he learned running his company. After co-founding two businesses, reportedly turning down a $125 million acquisition offer and being named to just about every "40 under 40" list imaginable, Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare, still cites the advice his mother gave him repeatedly as a child: to follow his heart. This was the mantra he adhered to when he decided to get his master's degree at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program instead of going for an MBA. It was also behind his launch of social networking companies Dodgeball (which he sold to Google in 2005) and Foursquare, and his decision this past May to launch Swarm, an app that will unbundle the check-ins and other social media functions from Foursquare. (Foursquare will focus on helping users discover restaurants and other venues.) "When I look back at my career to this point, I've spent the last 10 to 15 years following the same narrative, building things that people want to use and want to tell their friends about," he says, adding that he decided to spin off Swarm because, "over time, we realized that if we were passionate about these use cases, we needed to unbundle Foursquare into two apps." He often thinks back to his mom's advice. "All of these [concepts] started as me working in my apartment building on something I thought would be cool," he says. "All are projects that turned into products that turned into companies." Crowley has plenty of wisdom of his own to offer. Over the past five years, Foursquare has raised more than $140 million, enabling him to see the funding equation with fresh eyes.