CloudMade announced a $12.3 million Series B funding round with Greylock Partners and existing investor Sunstone Capital, which should help the company continue building its worldwide map database and help developers, operators and handset makers take advantage of it.
CloudMade isn’t building its database solely to offer yet another source of broad-based mapping data. It’s focused on niche markets, providing the crowd-sourced maps to any comers with a good idea – even someone who wants to map the best kite surfing spots.
More and more, applications are taking advantage of knowing someone’s location, and showing a street map is quickly becoming a commodity offering, says CloudMade CEO and Chairman Juha Christensen. But if you take five people and show them the same geographic area, each will have different interests in that information – whether it be for mountain biking, bird watching or finding gourmet restaurants.
Menlo Park, Calif.-based CloudMade developed a set of mapping tools that it markets to consumers so they can capture map and location data that’s important to them, either through a mobile device or Web browser. “In many ways, it’s about trying to get as much map data that reflects each niche consumer group as possible,” Christensen says.
CloudMade offers Mapzen, a Web-based map editor designed for adding points of interest and editing by anyone in the community who’s interested – sort of like Wikipedia. CloudMade relies on OpenStreetMap, a wiki map system that was founded in 2004 by one of CloudMade’s founders, Steve Coast.
OpenStreetMap has been growing rapidly. Two years ago, it didn’t have any map data on the United States; now a company called Skobbler is using the maps for U.S. turn-by-turn navigation on the iPhone; it includes a feedback mechanism that allows users to flag bad routing to the OpenStreetMap community for correcting.
OpenStreetMap’s presence reaches beyond Europe and the top 30 metro markets in the United States, including Australia. “We’re seeing exponential growth,” Christensen says. “It’s really amazing.”
With more than 300,000 users worldwide, OpenStreetMap gets more than 7,000 edits per hour. Growth doubles about every eight months, in what Christensen describes as an “unstoppable” endeavor.
Now CloudMade is at a stage where it’s ready to more broadly get out its message to developers, operators and handset manufacturers. It offers tools and libraries that enable the developer to build across platforms, including iPhone, Android, Symbian, BlackBerry and J2ME.
Given that Nokia purchased map database provider Navteq, does that mean it’s out of the running as a handset manufacturer partner? Christensen says no. “We’re in no way hostile to them,” he says, adding that on the contrary, it’s conceivable the savvy folks at Ovi Maps may consider CloudMade’s maps and services as augmenting what it has to offer.
Besides licensing deals with handset makers and operators, CloudMade is pursuing an advertising model. It has been signing deals with various ad networks that serve ads and its intention is for the ads to be matched closely to the application in question rather than sending a generic type of ad, for example, for a taxi service to people who are mountain bike enthusiasts.
Asked if Apple’s iAds is in the mix, Christensen says it’s early days for that but could be a potential future partner. The company regularly goes through apps in its catalog to see how the inventory best matches ad networks and so far, that has not resulted in going with iAds, he says.
Christensen says there is a point where the similarities to Wikipedia ends. On Wikipedia, an expert in mathematics can make an entry and others who are not math experts can learn from it. With the maps, “anyone can see if a point of interest is there,” like the location of a bike trail, whether scooters are allowed and if it’s in the right place. “Everyone is an expert on maps.”
Christensen joined CloudMade full-time more than a year ago. He used to head up the mobile division at Microsoft and was co-founder of Symbian. CloudMade was founded by Coast and Nick Black in 2007 to provide professional services around open map data.