Foursquare Will Sit Out This Year’s Big SXSW Party

Chooses to focus on development after a high-profile five-year run

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Foursquare has been a darling of South by Southwest Interactive since launching at the festival in 2009. That won't be the case next week when SXSW's 20th installment kicks off in Austin. 

After years of taking over parking lots with actual foursquare games and throwing groovy dance parties under the Central Texas stars, Adweek has learned that CEO Dennis Crowley and Co. are skipping this year, instead choosing to keep their heads down on product development.

"We're not going down this year," said Foursquare spokesperson Brendan P. Lewis. "We are sending some sales people. But we are not doing the big presence or big party. We plan on releasing some pretty cool stuff in the springtime. So rather than send a bunch of people down and the enormous task around it, everyone's going to be here [developing] the future."

It's an interesting departure for the social-mobile firm, which recently picked up a collective $50 million in funding from Microsoft and other investors. The industry consensus is that the cost of throwing an activation at South-by is becoming outrageous. Though Lewis said economics weren't a factor when Foursquare decided to sit this one out.

"The noise and the signal coming out of South-by is huge now," he said. "I think the event has gone to more marketing-focused. South-by, for the [companies] down there, is more than just a three- or four-day event. It's months leading up to it and getting things coordinated. Again, we didn't want to take focus away from product."

Meanwhile, other brands like Gogo and King's Hawaiian are throwing lavish brand activations. Whether the budget spend and hoopla will be worth it remains to be seen. 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.