Unlike companies like Google, Nokia’s Here and TomTom, Mapbox does not make products that it offers directly to consumers, meaning it has no agenda to compete against its developer customers, who pay Mapbox based on usage.
“The last thing I would do is call us a mapping company,” Gundersen said. “We are making the building blocks for a platform for developers to put location and maps into their own applications.”
Randy Glein, a partner at DFJ Growth who is joining the board, agrees. “I think it’s important to have an independent platform like Mapbox,” he noted. “I think the market needs and wants a platform and that’s why there is an opportunity here. Not everyone wants to integrate someone else’s map, and here we have something that is powerful and flexible and aggregates and overlays data.”
While a lot of Mapbox’s growth may have been under the radar, it’s been taking place amidst a rising importance for digital maps in general. The boom in smartphones and other connected, unanchored devices like watches and cars has created market and consumer demand for location-based services to run on this hardware.
Maps are only going to get more important.
An independent player is important but I doubt Mapbox will stay that way for long.
(It is interesting that the bidding war for Nokias HERE maps service is fierce but not as fierce as it should be given the market developments and rising importance of maps. Also: Googles microsoftiness of trying to do everything kind of killed Google maps as an option for a lot of third parties because an increasing number of companies don’t want to have a potential future competitor looking into their cards.)