For Ben Lang, founder of location mapping startup Mapme, the inspiration to build his product came after he saw a map of tech hotspots in New York City. Ben was eager to map out similar locations in the tech ecosystem of his home country – Israel. He envisaged a future where his product would display everything happening in the community, showing information on investors, accelerators, and co-working spaces.
Ben’s first endeavor was called MappedinIsrael – a substantive list of startups, R&D centers, and other community hotspots neatly sorted according to their specific location in the country. Users could click on the location points to get more information on what they do, and what projects they’re involved in. All information was crowdsourced – Ben encouraged the community to get involved, add locations and details.
“It became pretty big in Israel and lots of people started reaching out and asking whether I could help them create similar maps,” recalls Ben. “That’s how we grew.”
Ben refers to Mapme as a “platform to build sophisticated maps – what we call smart maps.” He says the product is built on top of the Google Maps API and allows you to do a lot more with Google Maps than you could otherwise.
Mapping yoga classes
Work on Mapme officially started about a year ago, when Ben and two other members in his team started to look at the platform seriously. In the beta stage, which lasted up until a month ago, the team concentrated on sectors like maps of yoga locations and 3D printing startups. Only select people were invited to use the platform, test it out, and add their locations. This grew to about 300 ecosystems before Mapme opened their platform to public use.
Now, anyone can come and create their own map on the site. Ben says it’s a “very quick process,” but he’s quick to drive home the point that they’re concentrating on working with businesses, large organizations, governments, and non-profits mainly.
All information currently present on Mapme remains crowdsourced. Ben admits there is a possibility of users abusing their privileges, such as the infamous case of the Android logo pissing on Apple in Google Maps, but he says that hasn’t happened so far. Furthermore, Mapme can choose to accept or reject any map created on their platform, which adds a further layer of scrutiny to the entire process.
Mapme has raised US$1 million in seed funding so far. It’s currently available on web and mobile web. Ben says they haven’t built an app yet because it’s more focused on B2B.
So why are businesses and large organizations drawn to Mapme? Ben says it’s useful for them to chart what’s happening in their ecosystem. Sometimes they want to be seen as the source of information, as well as to collect data and visualize developments. It can also be used in articles, for example, a recent piece of content about the seven most fabulous offices in Israel had both photos as well as a visual interface.
“The reason people like us is because it’s simple and fast to use, there’s no coding involved. If you have the resources to use Google Maps API like Airbnb, Foursquare, VOX etc, that’s great. We’re going for the 99 percent of organizations, governments, and developers who don’t have the resources to do that,” explains Ben.
Addressing the information gap
Location-specific maps using the Mapme platform are now present in almost 50 countries across the world. Ben says they’ve worked with organizations like the ministry of culture in England, the ministry of transportation in Jamaica, and the finance ministry in Chile, amongst others. In November there were more than 800 maps submitted and approved by the Mapme team, and Ben claims they’re growing by 30 to 40 percent every month.
Mapme is currently free-to-use, but Ben says monetization will come at a later stage. These could be featured listings, or pins that stick out on the map. There could also be features that cost money – such as removing the Mapme branding on the map itself.
Most of the startup’s traction is through word-of-mouth. People who create maps embed it on their site or share it on their social media platforms. For the next few years, Ben says, they simply want to help connect all the maps that will be created, as well as offer related maps.
“There’s a lot of information missing in the world, especially when it comes to things like big organizations, governments, and non-profits. We’re doing a good job of surfacing that,” explains Ben. “We want Mapme to be a place where people come and search for that information.”
Ben is confident that Mapme will be able to differentiate itself from Google Maps, which also offers information on businesses, landmarks, and locations of interest. “There’s room for more than one player,” he asserts. “They’re crowdsourcing from consumers, while we’re targeting businesses, as well as providing them with support and working closely with them.”
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