Peter Kafka

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Foursquare’s Longtime Head of Product Leaves, Midway Through a Huge Product Rollout

alex rainertFoursquare is saying goodbye to its product head, a longtime employee whose ties to CEO Dennis Crowley go back many years.

Yesterday, Crowley told employees that Alex Rainert, who was the mobile discovery app’s 10th hire, is leaving. Crowley is also reorganizing his product team, and will split Rainert’s duties between lieutenants Noah Weiss, who had previously overseen Foursquare’s ad products, and Jon Steinback, the company’s VP of marketing.

The move comes while Foursquare is in the middle of its most significant product rollout: A new version of the app that will automatically offer users tips about places they’re visiting, without requiring them to check in with the app itself. And it comes seven months after Foursquare raised $41 million in debt financing.

Crowley said the new version of the app, which the company refers to internally as “Pilgrim,” is “working really well. It’s working better than we expected it to work.” The update is now available to all Android users and a limited set of iOS users.

Crowley said the reorg, which doesn’t include any other departures besides Rainert’s, is supposed to help the company “figure out what the Foursquare of 2014 will look like.”

Rainert and Crowley met in graduate school, and the two men co-founded Dodgeball, the location startup that Google acquired in 2005. Four years later, they were back again with Foursquare.

If there is a Twittery backstory here, neither Crowley or Rainert are letting on. Both describe the move as a product of discussions that started up in the last few weeks, prompted in part by the fact that Rainert’s wife is returning to work after a maternity leave.

The fact that he doesn’t have another job or company lined up is natural, Rainert said.

“The past four years have been so intense that I don’t even know how I would think about something else until I went full stop,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is jump into something else without thinking about what I’ve learned in the last four years. Which is a lot.”

(Update: Here’s Rainert describing his departure in his own words.)

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik