Dozens of Midtown tech-lovers checked in to Bryant Park Tuesday morning to check out Foursquare, the location-based social networking platform, which officially surpassed 10 million users last week.
Jonathan Crowley, the director of business development for the runaway success story, shared tidbits about the company's business strategy as part of the park's new Breakfast Briefing series, which gives park-goers the chance to connect to senior executives from local businesses that are making waves in Midtown.
Now in its second month, the free event attracted more than 50 people, who gathered on lounge chairs on the park's Southwest Porch with muffins, fruit and coffee courtesy of 'wichcraft - and laptops and smart phones in hand.
"We want to make the idea of exploring cities much easier and make it easier to connect with your friends," said Crowley of the company, which was born in the East Village in 2008, and allows users to "check in" to locations and broadcast where they are.
"We're really trying to own location," he said.
In addition to expanding its partners and offering new discounts, he said the company was now focusing on creating a more interactive experience, where users who 'check in' gain access to a host of information about where they are - from historical facts from the History Channel about a particular landmark to Mario Batali's favorite dishes at local restaurants.
When he checks into the Palm Restaurant, for instance, Crowley forgoes the menu in favor of dishes his friends have enjoyed.
The company's offers are also getting more creative, he said, from automatic discounts when you pay with American Express cards to a trip to outer space to be won from 7-Eleven.
But despite the focus on technology, attendees said they most enjoyed the face-to-face experience.
"This was really cool. It was a small, intimate environment," Crowley said after the talk, adding that during the past year, he's watched his name recognition grow.
"Early conversations would be like, Four-what?" he said. "Now it's becoming a household name."
While the talk attracted Midtown office workers stopping by before work, it also brought curious fans from across the city.
"New York City, to me, is so expensive. Everything you have to pay. And then you have a free event like this, it's like a ray of sunshine," said Franck Legrain, who lives in Queens and signed up for Foursquare on his smart phone on the spot.
"You can learn about new things, have a new opportunity," added Legrain, who said he hoped the platform would help him save money and network to find a job.
Linda Newman, 61, who lives on the Upper West Side and also participated in last week's free yoga event in Times Square, said that she'd never used Foursquare before but now plans to sign up to give it a try.
But she said she most enjoyed the free event for the opportunity to mingle.
"It's a good way to network. It's a good way to get to meet new people," she said.
The series will continue through September on the last Tuesday of the month. Speakers will include Jennifer Swanson, a senior vice president at Elie Tahari, Charles Best, the CEO and founder of DonorsChoose.org and Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLB.com.
The talks are free, but those interested in attending must register in advance on the Bryant Park website.