Collaborative, Customized Social Guide Citymaps Raises $6 Million
The Ashton Kutcher-backed mobile mapping tool is going global, launching on Android, and working on a PC-friendly version.
Citymaps has raised $6 million in an equity round financing as the personalized mapping platform widens its international presence, makes its first appearance in the Google Play Store for Android usage, and plots its extension as a desktop utility as well.
The five-year-old New York company’s financing comes from a mix of existing and new investors. The new backers include Nokia Growth Partners, Coatue Management, Acadia Woods LLC. Citymaps raised a first round in the summer of 2013 from Guy Oseary’s A-Grade Investments and individual investors such as Oracle’s Endeca founder Steve Papa and actor Ashton Kutcher. In conjunction with the round, Paul Asel, Managing Partner at Nokia Growth, will join Citymaps’ board.
While Google Maps and local guide apps like Yelp are beginning to face more competition from the likes of Facebook in the form of the social net’s Place Tips feature, investors like Asel suggest that there is still plenty of room for companies Citymaps to carve out a strong niche in the marketplace — something that other startups like Mapjam and local search platform Weotta have been looking to do as well.
“Citymaps fits well into a mobile-first world delivering contextual maps that are personalized, customizable and social,” Asel said in a statement. “Personal, collaborative maps offer new ways to present and preserve information in a visually compelling map platform. Citymaps’ strong team and technology position the company well as a leader in social mapping.”
A Collaborative Approach
Citymaps now boasts “80 million searchable Points of Interest” across 750 different categories of places across 100 countries. The company also publishes over 100,000 targeted deals daily based on preferences expressed through users’ and brands’ personal maps.
The new collaborative functions Citymaps is now offering is meant to further the company’s early view of location as an inherently social and personal piece of information.
When Citymaps co-founders Elliot Cohen, CEO, and Aaron Rudenstine, president, formed the idea behind Citymaps in 2010, the duo saw that online maps like Google’s were great for finding general directions from one spot to another at a given time. But saving and sharing that info in a way that helped someone curate their digital places wasn’t easy or common, said Rudenstine.
“We enable people to create collections of places, that’s what makes us different,” Rudenstine said. “We think of Citymaps as a canvas for users’ personal maps which can be based on any variety of themes that a person would be interested in.”
With the new collaborative process being baked into Citymaps, a couple can now build and share a collection of special places they like to visit on date nights. The app is also being carefully marketed as an idiosyncratic trip planner.
“They can creative map lists of activities they like to do with friends in the winter time” Rudenstine noted. “Or it can just be something as simple as ‘bars with fireplaces in Manhattan,’ or when traveling, ‘favorite cultural activities in Montreal.’ The bottom line is that people who know each other can more easily benefit from each other’s knowledge.”
Citymaps Finds Its Way
In addition to finding its way around the world — thanks in part to its availability on Android phones — Citymaps is building up its publisher network as it pursues local ad marketing dollars. Rather than just rely on highlighting discounts and deals — though the company works with brands on those messages — Citymaps views its platform as the ultimate content marketing engine.
In particular, Citymaps is looking how it can partner with guide publishers like local food website network Eater and shopping news blog Racked. Citymaps has promoted these publisher brands as “tastemakers” — and the company can offer them further support in the form of making it easy to use its location curation tools.
“These are publishers that like review content about specific kinds of places all the time,” Rudenstine said. “They’re already generating this terrific content and always on their blog. They don’t have a mobile experience that allows their audience to take that content with them on the go.”
As Rudenstine and his and Cohen’s team turn their collective attention to extending Citymaps for greater desktop use, the plan is to ultimately build fuller “geo-based local advertising network.”
“The whole experience of the map was intentionally designed with advertising units built into it,” Rudenstine said. “The fact that we use a brand’s logo to identify their place is great for the consumer and it’s great for the brand. It also represents an advertising unit. In our map, venues will appear when you zoom in and venues will appear when you zoom out,and you create this notion of virtual real estate. So while we see ourselves as mobile-first, we can see other ways that we can be more than that and continue to increase our value to our clients and users.”