Mapillary joining Facebook on the journey of improving maps everywhere

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Mapillary is a street-level imagery platform, powered by collaboration and computer vision”. That’s how Jan Erik Solem pitched Mapillary late 2017. Being freshly done with our deep dive into high-definition mapping, we were convinced that Mapillary’s ambitious mission aligned well with our investment thesis. We were impressed with Mapillary’s world-class team, unique data acquisition strategy and powerful business model, creating a data network effect that extracts more value for each participant of the ecosystem in a data-hungry industry as shown below (by Mapillary).

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We were fortunate to lead Mapillary’s Series B round in 2018. Fast-forward to 2020, and it is with great excitement and overwhelming pride that we congratulate Jan Erik and the entire Mapillary team on their acquisition by Facebook! As an ode to such a special company, here are 3 lessons learned from Mapillary, universally applicable:

1. Communities aligned around a purpose could be extremely powerful: Mapillary has been a purpose-driven company from day one, and the mission has never changed: “We believe that people and organizations working together in the open is the best way to collect, visualize and understand data about our world. Mapillary is not tied to any particular mapping platform and is based on the idea of people and organizations with various motives sharing data and helping each other”.

It was this mission that attracted diverse contributors and organizations to constantly upload fresh and high-quality imagery from all around the world. Thanks to this powerful mission and collaboration, Mapillary was able to acquire rapidly scaling proprietary data, whereas competitors have to operate their costly specially equipped vans. Over time, Mapillary has exceeded our expectations and the number of imagery surpassed 1B before the end of 2019!

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2. A culture promoting working remotely and celebrating diversity is a massive asset (especially now as the world learns to catch up with working remotely!): Along with the headquarters in Malmö, Sweden, Mapillary has a large remote team with members in Barcelona, Graz, Los Angeles, New York, Stockholm, and Zagreb, among others. Mapillary’s website highlights the culture and values as follows: “As a team, we work distributed, and people work where they want when they want. GitHub, Google Drive, Hangouts, and Slack are our main tools. We ship early, in the open, and make multiple releases every day.” Thanks to the culture, Mapillary has turned into a talent vortex with accomplished team members, incl. Marr prize winners, from all around the world, at a fraction of what it would cost in Silicon Valley. As a result, the Mapillary team has won many accolades, including two industry-wide benchmarking challenges at the prestigious CVPR and four at ICCV in 2019 alone, proving their technical capabilities.

3. Constant communication and radical transparency pay off: When it comes to Board management, Jan Erik has set the gold standard. Instead of waiting for regular Board meetings, Jan Erik has sent out monthly investor newsletters pointing out latest KPIs, highlights, lowlights and areas for help. It is hard to believe that Mapillary had Board members in three different continents and, despite there being very few in-person Board meetings, it was clear that every Board member felt continuously up-to-date and empowered to contribute relevant areas where her/his help was most valuable. This is even becoming more important in today’s environment where Wall Street is talking about “transparency premium”.

We are deeply grateful to the Mapillary team for choosing us to be a small part of their story and we can’t wait for the next chapter!

Baris is an engineer with work experiences in venture capital and top-tier investment banking. At BMW i Ventures, Baris has been closely involved with the investments in AutoFi, Tekion, Zūm, Mapillary, Xometry, Vera, Strivr and Life360. Baris holds a Master of Engineering and Technology Management from Duke along with an MBA (Dean’s Fellow & Full Tuition Waiver) from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, where he led VCIC, the world’s largest venture capital competition. Please feel free to reach out on baris@bmwiventures.com, @BarisGSF over Twitter. For more details on BMW i Ventures, please visit www.bmwiventures.com.

Note: This story is a repost from the BMW i Ventures blog

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