Cloud-based map platform startup MapBox, which gives developers tools to add interactive maps to their web and mobile offerings, clad in their own brand colours/designs — and counts foursquare, Uber, GitHub, Evernote and the FT among its 2,500+ paying subscribers — has just closed a $10 million Series A from Foundry Group. The raise was announced in a blog on MapBox’s website.
It’s the first big round for MapBox, which has been bootstrapping the company up to now — although it did take in a $575,000 grant last year from The Knight Foundation to help improve the core infrastructure of OpenStreetMap (it uses the open source map data as its main source of mapping data).
MapBox competes with Google Maps, Nokia’s HERE, and ESRI to name three of the biggies but MapBox CEO Eric Gundersen argues it has the advantage of being mobile focused vs some of its larger competitors. “So many of these companies are not building for mobile first,” he told TechCrunch.
“We’re looking way beyond the desktop. We want to have the map as a canvas, and then we want to be this platform for all sorts of other data. This isn’t just about the base map. This is about you being able to use some other crazy data overlays — you’re going to see us come out with weather data, traffic data, real-time satellite data.”
Having a mobile-first approach means MapBox is not short of ideas for what how mapping is going to evolve on mobile devices — and it now has the funding to push forward some of those ideas.
“To date a lot of this mapping has been kind of boring on display. The fact that map is on mobile opens up so much more — it can be so much more responsive. Like when I’m running I want my map to start changing colours, based on how fast I’m going. Or my line I just ran on, down the street, I want that to get fatter, based on what my heart rate is,” said Gundersen in an interview with TechCrunch.
“Or walk into a bar and see another person that also uses Square Wallet and then boom our points of interest, where we go, or for the food trucks where we go and buy at hit into each other and we both get to see both what we’re both interested in on the same map. Maps need to be more alive, more responsive.”
To help realise some of those ideas, Gundersen said MapBox, which has offices in San Francisco and Washington DC, will be significantly ramping up its engineering team — with a focus on low level tech work to make sure that additional mapping interactivity can be delivered as speedily as less fancy digital maps.
“Our push here in building out the engineering base is going to ensure we’ve got the software and the tech to make it fast. So we can actually do some of the craziest ideas we want,” he said, adding: ”This is not a funding round to monetise our title play. This funding is about growing the team radically and having us ultimately have the right people in the room to build what we see as the future of geo software.”
Product development is another area of focus, with plans to add a premium content store to MapBox top of its list of new features.
MapBox will also be partnering with other data providers to incorporate other types of content to its map offering — such the weather and traffic data previously mentioned. Real-time imagery delivered by drones could be another possible addition to future MapBox-powered maps.
“We’re in active negotiations with other content providers to do rev-share agreements,” said Gundersen.
“This [space] is about to get a lot more interesting. More and more people, companies, cities, all have more and more data — everybody’s going to need a platform to visualise that. And we’re really the ball-bearing company: we want to be inside everything,” he added.
Gundersen described the Foundry Group as the “perfect” investor partner for MapBox, adding: “They get big data and platform companies, and they understand how open source and open data are our comparative advantage.”