Google’s Street View is an astounding service, unimaginable a few years ago. But photographing streets and stitching them together is a costly and time-consuming exercise. Mapillary thinks it has the answer, by allowing users to map the world with their smartphone and other cameras. Clearly heavyweight investor Sequoia agrees, because today it’s announcing a $1.5 million in a seed funding round its leading into the company. Other backers include the London-based funds Playfair, Wellington and LDV Capital (the vehicle of New York-based investor Evan Nisselson). They are joined by a number of angel investors, including James Currier, Taavet Hinrikus, and Naval Ravikant.
It’s an unusual move since Sequoia Capital doesn’t typically do seed deals in Europe.
Mapillary’s app allows anyone to use a smartphone or other devices like GoPro, Garmin Virb and low flying drones to collect photos that are combined into a street level view. To date the company has been bootstrapped. It now has around 6 million photos uploaded, and has mapped 200,000 square kilometres of the planet.
Jan Erik Solem, CEO of Mapillary, believes that using his platform, the world can be mapped far more frequently and seamlessly than Google’s Street View. Solem sold his last company to Apple.
It’s certainly the case that this could be a lot cheaper to run than Street View. There may however be drawbacks if users want to wipe their house from the archive, as Google has had to do many times in Germany, where consumers typically like to guard their privacy.
A new updated iOS app has improved features for uploading and viewing, and allows users to connect with others with similar interests
“The Mapillary community generates fresher, more compelling imagery and can cover many more areas than conventional mapping solutions,” said Roelof Botha, partner, Sequoia. “It’s a deft crowdsourcing approach that encourages everyone to participate in the largest expedition in history.”
Mapillary was recently integrated into OpenStreetMap’s editing tools so that any photo contributed to Mapillary is also available for improving open mapping initiatives. It also enables commercial applications of crowdsourced mapping in verticals such as transportation, construction, cities and municipalities.
The Mapillary app is available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, as well as action cameras like GoPro and Garmin Virb.
I interviewed Solem at 2 minutes 30 seconds into this video from last year’s Disrupt.