Maptiler, one of our 2021 ICT winners, has developed a mapping platform that allows you to personalize your own map and add it to your website in a few clicks.
Could you explain what your startup does in a few sentences?
Every month, 300 million people see MapTiler's digital maps via websites and mobile apps of our customers.
If you check the weather forecast in Germany, buy a train ticket in Switzerland, or interact with an infotainment system in an airplane - you may have seen our maps already.
Our team creates a detailed street and satellite map of the entire world. Unlike Google Maps, we give our business clients the freedom to modify the map easily, personalize it for their customers, connect it to the existing information systems, or even redistribute it with their products. And all this without ads and privacy leaks.
We are developing a software platform, which makes it easy to integrate a new generation of maps with your own data and use it in your next project.
Maps are the new web, an important communication medium, which you need to use well in your business - and we can help you!
What is something you wish you knew when you started putting together your business?
In the beginning, we were focused very much on the technological advancements, and development of features - and we also promoted the products this way.
We have learned that features are here to deliver BENEFITS to customers - and it is necessary to talk about the benefits and show examples on how, whom, and why the product helps, instead of describing just features. It is sometimes hard for software engineers excited about the technology.
Running your own company is so much more than creating a product. Having people dedicated to marketing and sales enables and boosts the growth of a good product amazingly. Do not wait too long.
I would highly recommend finding good mentors. With spot-on external feedback, you can identify pain points, and solve the core of the problem much faster, it is eye-opening, and you are free to move on to the next challenge. It has helped us a lot.
Luckily, there is a great offer and help available for free to accelerate the startups. Just explore the startup ecosystem early on. It is a fantastic source of know-how, connections, and learning materials about entrepreneurship.
What plans do you have for your startup in the next several months?
We are now finishing a new beautiful cloudless satellite map of the entire world made from Copernicus Sentinel-2 data. This has been truly a big data project where we processed over 150 terabytes of imagery from sensors flying at about 800km above our head every day. Many places on our map look with this resource much better than on Google Satellite. I am looking forward to launching it soon.
We are also working hard on strengthening our position within our primary target user group - the software developers. We are improving communication towards developers, writing more technical documentation, and hiring ;-). We want to be even more attractive for this group than we are now.
This activity is also related to our work on the MapLibre.org project, which started in December. We lead an effort on an open-source maps SDK for web, iOS, and Android with active contributors working for many companies, including engineers from Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft.
The next big step for us is to lower the entry barrier to our online mapping tools by improving the user experience of the products with more friendly onboarding. Our goal is to make it a no-brainer for anybody to start with their own maps - just by using our tools in a web browser.
Next to that, we listen to our current users and customers. We record all their feature requests, sorting them, and look at how they fit into our long-term strategy. If we find an idea aligned with our vision, we add it to our roadmap.
There are a couple of really cool things we are currently working on. Follow us on MapTiler.com/news and social media for more!
What are you most excited about with regards to your project?
I am thrilled by how many people already use the maps and software created by our small team. The speed of execution on the global online market, if you have an innovative product, is really impressive. It is only 5 years ago, when we started to work on this project full-time, and the dedicated AG spin-off was finally established last year.
I am also incredibly proud that SwissTopo has selected our technology for the development of the next generation of the official Swiss government maps, which you most probably use for hiking. It had been my dream to contribute there. The quality bar is very high as Swiss maps are valued as one of the most beautiful maps in the world. For me personally and the entire team, it is a true honor.
As part of our mission, we are on a path to empower people and innovate cartography. For me, success is not defined by financial profit, but by how many people your work can help. We feel our effort makes a difference in this world now - and that is what drives everybody in the team forward.
What advice would you share with someone thinking about starting a business?
As a founder and leader - first, you have to be sure you have a great product that customers want to pay for. If you handle that part well initially, prepare to be an open-minded person willing and keen to learn a lot of new things on the way: from finance and sales, leadership and handling negotiations, defining strategy, marketing priorities, communication, internationalization, online advertising, and attracting and hiring the best talents.
You have to understand at least a bit of all of this and have people whom you trust and whom you can delegate these tasks - but you are the one who defines priorities and who takes risks. The uncertainty is high, and nothing lasts forever in a business: you have to be flexible, set and regularly adjust the rules and processes, help to bring stability, support company culture, and ensure happiness and innovation drive in your team. By the way, the goal is that customers must be the happiest of all. :-)
It is a challenging but rewarding job - and you have to love it, you have to live for it, and you always need a bit of luck to succeed.