Timing. Why the Mapbox raise is important now.

SatelliteMapbox announced¬†today that they’ve just raised $52.55 million in a Series B round. That gives the company the fuel to continue building out their platform. The investors come with great backgrounds to feed into the growth of the company. But I want to talk about timing.

This round comes at craziest time I have ever seen in the mapping sector, in fact the whole location sector. Every day new bidders surface for Nokia HERE. The investor boards on TomTom are burning up with a knock-on effect. All of this puts a lot of focus on OpenStreetMap, and a lot of focus now on Mapbox, a huge supporter of OSM and user of OSM data.

What is about to become clear is that Mapbox isn’t an OpenStreetMap company, it’s an open mapping platform. Last week in their office, I saw a team deploying a Mapbox map using HERE data on top of satellite imagery. A few weeks earlier, I saw new designs for TomTom with terrain base maps. Different data, same Mapbox designs. But it’s not just about basemap data. The variety of data sources in geo is exploding, driving a need for a new generation of maps. The pace is just going to increase as location-enabled sensors come on line. Ten years ago, maps were all about a navigation use case. We looked at streets, addresses, POIs, maybe a little traffic. That’s not true today. Today, it’s about imagery, social media, real time content and much more. And three years from now, there will be only more data.

Processing and merging geospatial data is insanely hard. It’s only going to get harder as we layer in more new data types. Each data type needs a platform that can merge, display and output that data into the many, many forms needed across mobile, automotive and desktop platforms. That’s why Mapbox is building a highly modular data pipeline and modular stack. They call these “building blocks.” They are distinct units, but can snap together like Lego to build new and unique applications as the market needs evolve.

I’ve been working closely with Eric on the board of Mapbox since pre-series A, watching the infrastructure pieces being diligently built out by an amazing team. What we are seeing today is just the start. As the number of data sources expand and location threads its way into every application, the modular building block approach will allow real disruptions that no one saw coming across many core industries.

No independent mapping company has had the resources to make this play since Google Maps wiped out the field ten years ago. That just changed.

All new technologies eventually settle out and become more known, more predictable and less dynamic. I keep thinking that that will happen to the geospatial market. But that’s not happening now. We are seeing exactly the opposite: As the collection of location tagged data become easier, as data processing becomes more sophisticated and as delivery options expand, this thing just gets hotter and hotter. And a bunch of fuel just got dumped on that fire.

Note: I am obviously a fan of Mapbox. Perhaps less obviously, I am also on the Mapbox Board of Directors.