Foursquare founder banks funding for mystery 3D social network startup

The excitement around web3 and the metaverse have pulled plenty of entrepreneurs who defined the first generation of native mobile apps to begin questioning what’s next.

Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley is on the co-founding team of a new startup called LivingCities, alongside Matt Miesnieks, who sold his most recent startup to Niantic for an undisclosed sum, as well as designer John Gaeta, who best known for his work on the Matrix Trilogy. The trio say they have banked $4 million in early funding led by DCVC for their project. Other backers include Eniac Ventures, Anorak and Matthew Ball.

“The big opportunity in the early days of Foursquare was really like, ‘Okay, let’s make some software that changes the way that people use physical space,’ and the way that we executed that is we tried to turn life into a game, we tried to turn spaces into a game, we tried to make it easier to meet up with people, and a lot of that was successful. But that was like 13 or 14 years ago, and technology has changed,” Crowley tells TechCrunch. “I think that the core idea that software can change the way that people interact with the world is still meaningful and unsolved in many ways, and that’s what keeps drawing me back to the challenge.”

The founding team doesn’t have an awful lot to say about what exactly they’re building, except that it’s a “social layer” for consumers based around interacting with virtual spaces that capture the “spirit” of real-life geographies and cities. The “mirror-world” platform will integrate elements of web3, though the team says they hope to build without succumbing to the “rampant speculation” that many associate with crypto.

CEO Miesnieks says the team is largely interested in building out a network that exists only on the web and mobile web, potentially sidestepping app stores and their associated fees, but that he’s not looking to build out another augmented reality startup or compete with mapping players like Niantic or Snap.

“We think that if you’re going to build something for consumers, you need to build on technology that’s widely available today,” Miesnieks says.

Just under a year ago, Crowley stepped down from his full-time role at Foursquare after more than a decade at the company. He tells TechCrunch that starting his new company has been the product of him and his co-founders asking themselves questions about what role new technology can play in bringing people closer together.

“What are the things that we want to see exist in the world? What are experiences that are only now recently possible because of what’s changed in how people use their phones or other devices? It has always seemed like there’s an opportunity to do more, to bring the digital and real world together in an interesting way,” Crowley says.

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Hear from investors at General Catalyst, FirstMark, Shasta at TC Sessions: AR/VR

The worlds of augmented reality and VR theoretically represent a boundless expanse for startups looking to create a new digital future. Realizing that future is the tough part, and doing so while Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple all look to plant their flags is even harder.

While plenty of investors have taken a look at AR/VR companies in the years following Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, for many, the prospect of buying in at a stage where the consumer interest is so uncertain has proven a bit too risky. At TechCrunch’s one-day Sessions AR/VR event on October 18 at UCLA, we’ll chat with investors from top venture capital firms about where they’re seeing potential in the market and how they are approaching investments in AR/VR in 2018.

We’ll be joined by Niko Bonatsos from General Catalyst, Catherine Ulrich from FirstMark Capital and Jacob Mullins from Shasta Ventures on a panel discussing the ins and outs of AR/VR investing.

Bonatsos was an early investor in Snap and has also backed AR cloud startup (which will also be joining us), Ulrich’s firm FirstMark has made investments in AR/VR startups like Sketchfab and Mullins runs Shasta Ventures’ Camera Fund focused on early-stage AR investments.

The future of consumer AR/VR may be a bit murky for the time being, but these investors are looking to peer through the smoke and mirrors and find the startups that will stand resilient.

Get an inside look into the AR/VR investment landscape when you purchase a ticket today. Early-bird sales were extended til this Friday, September 28. Don’t miss out! Student tickets are just $45 and can be purchased through this link.