This week Foursquare announced that it had topped 20m users, with 5m of those registering in the last 16 months.

This year’s ‘4sqDay’, held on April 16th (4 x 4, see?) also saw confirmation that people had checked in a fantastic 2bn times – roughly 100 times per user.

Though growth has slowed of late, the location-based network pushes forward while the idea of ‘checking-in’ continues to roll towards becoming mainstream.

We spoke to business bevelopment director for Europe Omid Ashtari, Foursquare’s first European employee – who joined the company eight months ago from Google – about his plans for the UK, best practice and areas of growth.

What are you responsible for at Foursquare and what’s on your horizon for Europe?

My title is business development director Europe and as such my job is to build a team that reaches out to local retailers, publishers, broadcasters, brands, sports teams etc. to build strategic partnerships for Foursquare across Europe.

The goal is to replicate the success we have seen in the US with our partnership efforts, providing more relevant local content and rewards to our European users.

We’re all very excited about Amex’s partnerships with Twitter and Foursquare, is that on the cards for the UK any time soon?

We are equally excited about our partnership with Amex which has been hugely successful in the USA, and are keeping all our options open in regard to international roll-outs.

Where are the most interesting areas of growth in terms of what’s going on in the social, mobile and location?

What’s really interesting is that we are slowly seeing social local apps going mainstream.

Foursquare now has 20m users and 2bn check-ins which is a testament to the appetite for social, local and mobile apps.

Obviously, as we see more users creating content and data on Foursquare the more useful the platform becomes as a whole.

For instance our Explore recommendation engine that gives users personalised local search results will just get smarter with every additional check-in.

It’s still early days for this space but we’re excited to see that so many people are understanding the value of our platform. 

What’s your take on the technology scene over here in London?

The London tech scene deserves more credit as there are a lot of very smart and entrepreneurial teams working on some interesting projects.

The perception of the tech scene here is rapidly changing not only due to the great work of Seedcamp, Springboard, Tech Hub, the Google Campus and Techcity but also the prolific founders who are raising the bar constantly. 

Why do you think the UK hasn’t taken to Foursquare quite as readily as those in the US?

The UK is our biggest market in Europe and is actually very fond of Foursquare.

We are also seeing tremendous growth across the UK and Europe as a whole, which is why we are building our presence over here.

That said users across the region have been longing for more local content, rewards and badges so this is what we will be working on.

How do you grow UK users? Is it getting brands involved first, or do you bag the users before businesses are interested?

We have a healthy user base in the UK and we see that growing at a great pace.

As mentioned previously we are now working on a number of partnerships with some national retailers, publishers, broadcasters etc. who will create compelling experiences on Foursquare for our UK users to enjoy. This is obviously also a great way to get more users to sign-up.

Are you worried about Google Schemer?

Of course we watch the competition but no, we are not worried about a product that hasn’t launched yet.

We have a clear vision of where we want to go and what we want to achieve. We are still very far away from that end goal becoming reality and the only way to get there is complete focus.

There were moments where the media and others saw the end of Foursquare (like the Facebook Places launch) but we just kept executing and building great products that our users love. It seems that strategy is working well.

Any best practice tips for marketers looking at using Foursquare within their campaigns? Any guidelines for where is works versus it doesn’t?

Foursquare allows retailers to look at interesting aggregate statistics on check-in behaviour. It also allows them to use our Specials platform to acquire new and reward loyal customers.

Publishers and broadcasters on the other hand can leave tips at venues and thereby tagging their content to locations. This allows them to gain mindshare in places where they would not have any authority otherwise.

Every check-in (which happens 5m times every day) is an opportunity for a retailer, publisher or broadcaster to engage with our users.

The future of marketing is all about creating a lot of natural engagement points with your potential and existing customers – and Foursquare allows marketers to do this for free.

What are your favourite creative uses of Foursquare?

I love the UK History Channel. They have left so many charming tips around London which give me a very profound appreciation of this city.

TimeOut London has created a number of excellent lists with my favorite being the ‘Late nights at London museums and galleries’.

Some developers have also created really creative solutions using our API. One of my favourites which currently only works with US numbers is ‘Hashtagmom’, which essentially notifies your mom when you check-in at an airport.