Photo: Pierre Valade
Two engineers recently left Foursquare to turn a side project into the main event, adding to a flow of talent out of the location service.Pierre Valade and Jeremy Le Van have created Sunrise, a calendar they hope will put Apple’s built-in one to shame. It’s an app that stores your events in the cloud and syncs across multiple calendars and devices. It’s received rave reviews from gadget reporters.
They started building the app when they were still employed by Foursquare as user-experience designers. They told The Verge they moonlighted, designing Sunrise on nights and weekends for the year and a half that they worked for Dennis Crowley’s company.
Their departures are fresh, within the past few months. Their LinkedIn profiles haven’t been updated yet. The pair left when Sunrise received some traction.
Moonlighting might be discouraged at most companies. But at tech companies, it’s not just tolerated as a way of keeping talent—it’s seen as a sign of useful ambition.
Kevin Hartz, an angel investor and CEO of Eventbrite, recommends it.
“Some general advice for any entrepreneur is to moonlight,” Hartz told us last year in an interview. “You have a paycheck coming in during the day and a lot of great businesses have been created on the side. Show some progress, set some goals… Or generate revenue or find investors before you jump out of the nest of your job.”
Companies, especially startups, don’t always mind that their employees are working on other projects in their spare time. One startup, Barkbox, considered letting employees found other companies on its bankroll. In a tight talent market, employers consider themselves lucky to have innovative, creative people.
We asked Foursquare if it knew Valade and Le Van were moonlighting, and what it thinks of Sunrise. A spokesperson for the company replied:
It’s not uncommon for people to have side projects outside of work and sometimes those side projects grow up to be real things. We wish them all the success in launching their new product. For reference, Dodgeball was a side project for a long time, so there’s precedence even within the Foursquare DNA.
Valade and Le Van aren’t the first to leave Foursquare, though. Other notable departures include former PR manager Erin Gleason, former head of talent Morgan Missen, designer Ted Power, and early badge creator Mari Sheibly.
To that, the company says it’s all part of the process:
It’s natural for people to leave a company, especially ones who have been around for a while. Their desires change, they built something and are ready for a new challenge etc. We’ve actually had few people leave relative to our size—and (overall) things are incredibly stable inside Foursquare.