Geo-Data, Generated Daily, Growing Exponentially — How Mapsense Keep Track Of It All

CEO Erez Cohen and VP of Sales Mike Cottle talk the future of location data and data visualization.

Location analytics startup Mapsense has grown considerably since it was founded in 2013. The San Francisco-based startup’s data visualization tools have drawn a wide variety of small to large businesses interested in accessing its geo-data tools and insights. With the recent hire of Mike Cottle as VP of Sales, the company is looking to build new revenue streams.

But it’s not just the company that has been growing. CEO and co-founder Erez Cohen says that the proliferation of location data in recent years has propelled Mapsense forward.

“Uber generates the same amount of data in an hour that Census does in years,” said Cohen. “The goal of our company is to build the tech to visualize those huge amounts of location data.”

GeoMarketing: What was the genesis of Mapsense?

Erez Cohen

Erez Cohen: I was an engineer at a company called Palantir, a data analytics company that was at one point the most valuable startup in the world.

Palantir was working on data analysis so they worked with credit card companies or the intelligence community and one of the things that was great about it we would handle any kind of data, from the big businesses to the CIA — which was really nice in general sense, but it was difficult from a scaling perspective and hard to customize the systems around different kinds of location data so we needed a lot of engineers to build a custom solutions for different customers.

What was your role at Palantir?

EC: My job was integration because every job was different and so there was a lot of manual labor involved. So from a scaling perspective, this was bad because you can’t build a product around lots of different data, all needing constant attention. One of the things I noticed is that there are two main axis in mobile data. One of them is surge data, when does something happen, every data has a timestamp on it. The other is location.

How did that influence the creation of Mapsense?

EC: There’s a set of similar questions around location data that people want to answer. We created Mapsense to answer those questions. We designed our system so there are only seven functions but by combining those functions, any other function can be composed. So the simple functions – convex hull operator, a radiance search, a buffer, intersections – can come together for more complex functions, all in service of providing data visualization.

What are some of the ways your clients use those visualizations?

EC: So I’ll give an example from Thinknear. Thinknear is interested in impression data. Everytime they send one of their mobile ads to a mobile device, they generate a row of data that contains the location, the device type, the impression the ad made, the metadata on that.

We are helping them do analytics on their location data so that they can understand how their campaigns are working in different regions. Not just regions but specific areas. They can see every impression within a 100-meter radius from a store. They can see what campaigns are performing best, where are they performing best.

There’s no limit to the amount of data you can cross-reference. If you have the data, you can use it.

Mike Cottle: That goes for your own proprietary data as well — custom territory, distribution zones. You can overlay that over the data as well.

How has your company grown since you were founded? Is there a large appetite for what you do?

EC: The team has grown from 2 people in 2013 to 14 now. We have a very strong engineering component at our company, 11 of our 14 people are engineers from places like Berkely, Columbia, Stanford, Princeton, MIT with backgrounds at companies like Palantir, Google, and Apple. We’ve always had more customers inbound than we can deal with. There is an overwhelming amount of demand for our service so we are working to be able to handle the amount of people wanting to use us. It’s actually been a bit of a struggle which is why we brought on Mike as VP of sales to help us grow.

Mike, tell me a bit about your background and what are your plans for growing the company?

Mike Cottle

MC: About 20 years ago, I participated in the democratization of GIS [Geographic Information Systems] at a company called Strategic Mapping.

What we accomplished there was taking traditional GIS and bringing it to a larger audience moving it from the computers of analysts and into the hands of the business people. So it’s not like the old IT days when you would get your reports from guys in white coats who would come to you with a printed document.

Now you can actually do that yourself which has made business much faster, so that was kind of a revolution in GIS. Back then the amount of data you were dealing with wasn’t that significant but with the revolution of large databases we are now seeing the third generation of mapping and GIS tools come to market through companies like Mapsense who will make use of that data and further democratize location data.

Now, people are more literate in that they’re more familiar with Google Maps and location data. But those are just pictures; they don’t really give you any intelligence. Mapsense merges those two capabilities to allow novice users — like me — to use these tools to make their decisions. That’s why I’m so excited about being here.

Making that more accessible is important because location data is so important. Yet when people hear things like “geo-data” they get a little intimidated.

MC: Their eyes gloss over.

In terms of how we go to market, one of the things we are doing is building a developer environment where that kind of functionality in their applications is needed. We want to make a very frictionless way for devs to engage with our service, upload their data, and get involved with documentation and resources on the web. That will create a broad base of users who will use it to prototype their applications and flesh out their concepts, but then simultaneously we will be targeting one to three vertical markets which have a large need for this technology, like Erez said, mobile advertisers, logistics, the connected car space. Things like that. Those are some big markets we’ll be targeting proactively.

So what does Mapsense have in store for the second half of the year?

MC: We want to expand our awareness not just in those markets but in the developer community, so we are going to be looking into some SEO strategies to drive more awareness and demand and drive more developers to use our tech. We’ve got a lot of rich prospects right now, probably more than we can handle. We definitely want to start to create more demand and respond to that demand.

EC: Product wise we are going to focus more around location analytics. We are starting to combine lots of interesting data, some open source data some closed source and to give developers and people generating that location data the tools to sort of segment their audience and we are definitely structuring our functionality around that.

How do you see, not just Mapsense, but the whole space growing in the future? Will it continue to grow exponentially or do you see that growth slowing down?

EC: I only see it growing and speeding up. Most of the customers we work with come back and use more of our data, so even within our current clients, their internal businesses are generating more and more business. We are at a very critical time in this space.

In 2014, there was more location data than in all of history. It’s going to continue until that’s happening every month.

MC: Another thing too is that granularity of the geographic information is no longer confined to just counties or zip codes, you can go all the way down to aisles and floors within one store. It’s incredibly granular in terms of what they’re looking at.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.