Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO of social network Foursquare.
Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO of social network Foursquare. - 
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Four years is an eternity in the tech world.

Foursquare, an app which lets users check in to physical locations and tell their social media friends about it, has just turned four. CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley debuted the company back in 2009 at the monthly gathering of New York Tech Meetup.

"This was really the first time we showed the ideas in public. I  don't think we even had a prototype, we just had screen shots," remembers Crowley. "But now four years later, we are big, we have 30 million users, 160 people in the company, people have given us 3 billion 'check-ins'."

The next step for Foursquare is how to take all that data and make it into something that helps people discover things in the real world. Crowley says Foursquare is working on ways to predict where willing customers might be 20 minutes later -- and what they might want to know when they get there.

"We know about who your best customers are, we know who the people are who spend a lot of time in the neighborhood, we know whether they've been to your shop," says Crowley. "We think a lot about how we want to monetize the products that we built."

Think custom coupons, for instance. Foursquare was reportedly valued at more than $700 million during a deal last year, but some investors remain skeptical about the company's ability to ultimately generate lots of cash. Also, sites like Yelp, Google and even Facebook are edging in on Foursquare's location-based data mining.

And finally, there’s this irony, courtesy of the man at the helm of a company that depends on digital screens.

"I find it annoying sometimes when people pay more attention to what's on the screen than what's happening in real life," Crowley says. "A big challenge for developers is how do we build these things that are great, but do it in a way that people don't have to be glued to their screens."

Follow David Brancaccio at @DavidBrancaccio