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Foursquare Cofounder Dennis Crowley spoke at Where 2.0 yesterday on the ongoing theme of innovating “beyond the check-in.” Though lots of companies have taken this in directions such as checking in to TV shows, he remains focused on the “relationship between people and places.”

Within those parameters, there’s lots of room to grow, he says, such as better influencing users’ future activity. So far this has been shown by the new Explore feature of v3.0, but it could grow into more data-crunching features that use past behavior to drive future check-ins.

This is very much in line with what Foursquare GM Evan Cohen told us about using data to be the “Netflix or Amazon of the physical world.”

Netflix has done such a good job knowing who you are and what movies you’ve seen, and can now make really smart movie recommendations. And, of course, Amazon is killer at that for products.

We’re trying to do that for the real world using the same principles of data analysis. We’ll continue to hone that engine, and it’s a hugely interesting and complicated mathematical challenge.

This is also very much in line with our thinking on the formula for effective LBS — walking a fine line between push and pull by discerning user interest, and offering points of discovery accordingly. We’ll continue to see Foursquare lead the way in building on top the core check-in model.

The looming challenge we discussed in a follow-up conversation will be appealing to small business to utilize the Foursquare dashboard to manage specials and drive foot traffic. There are clear benefits in the tangible results, but also longstanding challenges in reaching SMBs.

“We have 300,000 merchants using Foursquare without one salesperson,” he told me. “We have users out there showing the product to merchants and that raises awareness. To get to a million it might take something else, but it says something how we’ve gone from zero to 300,000.”

Point taken, and the Local Ambassador Program has indeed provided a boost — not to mention the less formal process of users showing mayorships to merchants to inquire if they have a special. There are also lots of case studies of creative SMB adoption that Cohen shared at ILM East.

We’ll have more analysis of those case studies soon, as well as a close eye on Foursquare’s progress in tackling the opportune but fragmented SMB market. Meanwhile see more coverage in our Foursquare Q&A.

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