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NEW YORK- Running up-and-coming social networks has its advantages – such as being able to ask Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for advice, but also its challenges – including having to decide how quickly to grow without losing the magic touch.
Dennis Crowley, co-founder of location-based social network Foursquare, and David Karp, founder of microblogging platform Tumblr, talked about these and other issues here early Thursday in a conversation led by The New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta and organized by the Newhouse School.
While their companies have grown their user bases quickly and they have been developing revenue models, the bottom line is still a developing story. “Not profitable yet,” Karp told Auletta when asked about Tumblr’s financials. “Same thing,” Crowley added.
Foursquare allows users to check into locations, such as restaurants, shops, museums or other places, online. Tumblr allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to a short-form blog.
Discussing challenges, Crowley said Foursquare has been approached by so many companies about partnerships or deals that his team has a hard time keeping up.
And Karp said he is looking to expand Tumblr’s staff of 12, but is concerned about growing too quickly.
“We try so hard to be clever today,” he recalled telling Zuckerberg in recent days about his concerns. The Facebook CEO’s response: “Don’t give up on being clever.”
Asked how they liked Facebook film The Social Network, Crowley, who took his whole team to the theater, said: “I thought the movie was phantastic.” Deadpanned Karp: “It made me wanna go to college.”
Asked if he was concerned that the film took liberties with interpreting events, Karp replied to laughs from the audience: “They killed Hitler in Inglourious Basterds. I mean who cares!?”
Discussing opportunities for marketers to use Foursquare, Crowley said there is room for much more, but cited the History Channel and Bravo as companies that have already offered great brand-reinforcing trivia for users who check in at locations.
He also said that checking into locations is currently a bit tedious and requires an active effort, but suggested cell phones and PDAs will eventually automatically suggest to their owners that they check in.
Also part of Thursday’s breakfast event was author Clay Shirky who argued that social networks don’t automatically do so, but can deepen social interactions between people.
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