82 Comments

Summary:

Three years ago, when Google launched Google Maps for free, the whole world was agog with what you could find. One man who wasn’t thrilled: Jaron Waldman, founder of Los Angeles-based startup Placebase. He was contemplating starting a white-label mapping business when Google went and made […]

Three years ago, when Google launched Google Maps for free, the whole world was agog with what you could find. One man who wasn’t thrilled: Jaron Waldman, founder of Los Angeles-based startup Placebase. He was contemplating starting a white-label mapping business when Google went and made the value proposition of his idea disappear. After all, it’s hard to compete with free. Or so you would think.

Waldman thought differently. He decided to compete with Google and other free mapping services by doing two things: One, by offering customizations and tons of features that integrated private and public data sets in many diverse ways. (He knew it would be a while before Google would get around to offering customization). His other twist was to offer a way to layer commercial and other data sets (such as demographics and crime data) onto the maps using an easy-to-use application programming interface (API). The product is called PushPin.

Two years on, his strategy seems to be paying off — the company, which is completely bootstrapped (read again: no VC dollars), is doing a few million dollars in revenues and is profitable. In this age of perpetual hype, it’s refreshing to see a company building business the old-fashioned (read: hard) way. “Google Maps is great for consumer usage, but we are making it easy for large companies to take our Maps API, customize it and then use it,” Waldman said. Users of its Maps API include Cyberhomes and Dash. “We are being used for real estate, fleet tracking and traffic.”

I wish I had more time to chat with Waldman, but he wanted to pitch me a new product from one of his clients. It’s called PolicyMap, and is based on Placebase’s PushPin technology. It aggregates all sorts of interesting data from various commercial and public datasets — home sales, crime, current year and five-year projected demographics, school performance, mortgage lending, employment and more — and puts them at the disposal of researchers, policymakers, real estate developers, investors and just everyday users. You should check it out.

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By Om Malik

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  1. Ericson Smith Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    @om — “…the company, which is completely bootstrapped (read again: no VC dollars)…”

    Om, most small businesses are entirely bootstrapped. No VC. Personal/friend/family/credit-card investing.

    Its only recently (last few years) that the average college grad exited college with a plan to make a business that they could not monetize, hope for VC’s to pay for the bill, and a quick buyout from one of those other companies that were initially bootstrapped. Sigh.

    Its getting to the point where a company like funadvice.com (which i am a co-founder), which is bootstrapped, no funding, profitable and hires employees, will never get press from the a-list bloggers.

    After all, we’re too boring :-)

  2. Do they have maps for Indian cities ?
    -Tarun

  3. @ Ericsson,

    Actually not true. Sure we don’t have that many boot strapped companies getting coverage here, but we do make an effort to find non VC/boot strapped companies. Stay tuned as we beef up our start-up coverage.

  4. @ Ericsson,

    > Personal/friend/family/credit-card investing.

    Paul Graham of Y Cominbator (is Y Combinator a “VC” firm?) says:

    http://www.paulgraham.com/boss.html

    > [3] Do not finance your startup with credit cards.
    > Financing a startup with debt is usually a stupid
    > move, and credit card debt stupidest of all. Credit
    > card debt is a bad idea, period. It is a trap set
    > by evil companies for the desperate and the
    > foolish.

  5. And now we’re going to play a game called “Paul Graham Says.”

  6. Using the iPhone to Mine for Gold & Sense – GigaOM Monday, June 9, 2008

    [...] already showcased two startups — Skygrid and Placebase — that have impressed us with their ability to offer pointers that can be translated into [...]

  7. Using the iPhone to Mine for Gold & Sense – GigaOM Monday, June 9, 2008

    [...] already showcased two startups — Skygrid and Placebase — that have impressed us with their ability to offer pointers that can be translated into [...]

  8. Jorge Salles Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    It would be great to have Mr. Jaron Waldman sharing with the startup community his findings along the time he is competing with Google/free. For sure all of us got a lot to learn from his experience.
    Is that possible?

  9. remote control software Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    As a sociology major I find this incredibly interesting, and may have to pay for the service just to play with it. We used data in a program that could map data by county, but including “regular” map functions is very intriguing. Is there more crime surrounding late-night pizza places? Do rich people choose to live further from the noise of the highway, or closer because they commute to work by car? This is really a pretty valuable and unique tool. Thanks for posting.

    1. Check out the patent of Cycore (the Alladessa project) on combining georelated data sets. Someone’s gonna have to buy it eventually… ;-)

    2. Another way you can create your own maps is my buddy Jeff’s Cartagen. It’s open-source, draws client-side vector maps using HTML 5, and uses stylesheets to allow you to easily change appearance and behavior.

      1. Professional webmapper John Kestner Thursday, October 1, 2009

        Cartagen? Really? Does your buddy Jeff understand the concept of caching….and even blending cached tiles? How does he possibly hope to compete with other products when his maps are slow as molasses? I haven’t seen webmaps that slow since 1999. I love the simple interface and styles, but it’s ridiculously slow! He needs to do some more research into web mapping technology…. But I will say I like the HTML5 angle there….he’s definitely onto something going in that direction.

  10. Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps) [Apple] | Gizmo Nerd Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps—mainly, customization and tons of ways [...]

  11. Apple Buys Pacebase Mapping Company | Geeky Gadgets Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] brings out their own mapping software for the iPhone, to replace Google Maps, and according to GigaOm, PlaceBase has a lot of features that Google Maps doesn’t, including customization and the [...]

  12. Apple Buys Placebase Mapping Company | Diy all the Way Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] brings out their own mapping software for the iPhone, to replace Google Maps, and according to GigaOm, PlaceBase has a lot of features that Google Maps doesn’t, including customization and the [...]

  13. Apple buys map company – Goodbye to Google Maps? | MyGreatPhone.com Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] is a post on GigaOm that gives a detailed comparison of  PlaceBase vs. Google Maps, customisation and tons of ways to [...]

  14. Apple acquisce Placebase, società di mapping alternativa a Google Maps – TheAppleLounge Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] e sapere come in questi anni è sopravvissuta all’esplosione di Google Maps vi suggerisco questa lettura molto [...]

  15. Apple neemt kaartleverancier Placebase over en richt Geo Team op – iPhone – iPhoneclub.nl Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] CEO van Placebase is tegenwoordig lid van Apple’s Geo Team. Vorig jaar publiceerde de website GigaOM al een vergelijking van Placebase versus Google Maps. Het mooie is dat je met Placebase veel meer [...]

  16. אפל רכשה חברת מפות משלה: כיצד גוגל תגיב? | iSpot – אתר האייפון הישראלי Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] PlaceBase קרוב לודאי מנצחת את גוגל באחד המגרשים המרכזיים שלה: Google Maps. למפות שברשותה יש אפשרויות התאמה רבות, עם דרכים לשלוף נתונים מגוונים מהמפה. אפל כנראה מעוניינת להגדיל את כוחה בתחום המפות, ולהעניק לאייפון (ואולי אף למוצרים אחרים) תכונות מיקום מבוסס GPS מתקדמות, כיאה לעידן שבו טכנולוגיית המיקום צוברת תאוצה ותופסת מקום מסקרן בעתיד המובייל. כמו כן, אפל לא רוצה להתסמך על שירותי המפות של גוגל, ולעשות את זה בדרכה – כרגיל – ואולי אף לשחרר אפליקציית מפות משלה. [...]

  17. Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps) | iPhone 3G hacked.com Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps—mainly, customization and tons of ways to [...]

  18. So Why Did Apple Buy a Mapping Company? Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] in July for an undisclosed sum, according to Seth Weintraub at Computerworld. Placebase, which we wrote about last year, is a Google Maps competitor that focuses on adding layers of public and private data to existing [...]

  19. Apple purchased Placebase in July to replace Google Maps? « LocalLab : Foire aux Infos Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] can superimpose over your mapping data.  It does other things better than Google, however.  It was featured on GigaOM last year: Waldman thought differently. He decided to compete with Google and other free mapping [...]

  20. The Apple Core mobile edition Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] for the Google Maps application that is installed by default on all iPhones. In May 2008 GigaOm reported on several ways that Placebase is better than Google Maps: One, by offering customizations [...]

  21. Apple: This is what Google divorce is like: Apple bought its own mapping company in July Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] bought its own mapping company, Placebase, in July, according to an article in Computer World. Apparently that’s part of Apple’s [...]

  22. Apple Buys a Maps Company, Intends to Use It – Blog, Rumors – 148Apps – iPhone App and Game Reviews and News Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] what exactly separates Placebase from Google Maps? Well, from this post published [...]

  23. Apple Purchase of Placebase Confirmed: Goodbye Google Maps? Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] own sister site GigaOM ran a profile of Placebase back in May 2008. It detailed the way in which Placebase’s PushPin product was able to stay [...]

  24. Apple Bloog » Blog Archive » Apple bought mapping service company Placebase Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  25. Apple Gets A Mapmaker. Where Does That Leave Google? – Programming Blog Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] especially in the mobile space, and wanted to acquire talent in that field. While Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps, it also was slightly different, focusing on different layers and [...]

  26. Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps) [Apple] | Free Article – New Information Online Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps—mainly, customization and tons of ways [...]

  27. » Apple bought mapping service company Placebase Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  28. Apple bought mapping service company Placebase | Touch the Apple Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  29. Apple in Extreme Mapover? | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] deal went unnoticed until this week, but Apple (AAPL) evidently bought mapping outfit Placebase this past July in an acquisition that may have undermined its relationship with Google (GOOG) which [...]

  30. Iphone to lose google maps? |StudioKIND Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] Google offers such a service free. GigaOm has a nice story that explains what founder Jaron Waldman hoped to accomplish. Here is an example of Placebase and its PushPin Java API in action at a site called [...]

  31. Health News » Apple in Extreme Mapover? Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] deal went unnoticed until this week, but Apple (AAPL) evidently bought mapping outfit Placebase this past July in an acquisition that may have undermined its relationship with Google (GOOG) which [...]

  32. Apple-Overload! » Apple bought mapping service company Placebase Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  33. Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps) | Gizmodo Australia Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps — mainly, customisation and tons of [...]

  34. http://deadcellzones.com is forever grateful for the relationship with Placebase. Incredible team and great product that we have used from 2 years to aggregate cell phone coverage complaints from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile. The crusade has just begun with a crack in what hopes to be open mobile net neutrality.

  35. photomaniacal.com » Blog Archive » Apple to Replace Google Maps on the iPhone? Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] described the Placebase service over a year ago:Waldman thought differently. He decided to compete with [...]

  36. Planner Reads » Blog Archive » Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps?) [Apple] Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps—mainly, customization and tons of ways to [...]

  37. Sloan Bowman’s Blog » Google and Apple Breakup Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] the two together, Google Maps. According to VentureBeat, Apple purchased a small maps company named Placebase. One can only assume this will be replacing the integrated Google Maps on the iPhone in the near [...]

  38. Apple bought mapping service company Placebase « Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  39. Apple Quietly Acquired Placebase, A Mapping Startup In July – Best Free Offers Today Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] more about Placebase, see this 2008 profile by Om Malik at [...]

  40. Planner Reads » Blog Archive » Apple Purchase of Placebase Confirmed: Goodbye Google Maps? Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] own sister site GigaOM ran a profile of Placebase back in May 2008. It detailed the way in which Placebase’s PushPin product was able to stay [...]

  41. Did Apple buy mapping company Placebase? | Consumer Online Guide Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] which was said to have generated a few million dollars in revenue, designed a platform called PushPin that allowed users to build maps and customize them [...]

  42. The API just looks like a rip off of openlayers.

  43. Snow Leopard » Blog Archive » Apple bought mapping service company Placebase Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  44. Anish E J's Blog » Apple Buys Placebase Mapping Company Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] brings out their own mapping software for the iPhone, to replace Google Maps, and according to GigaOm, PlaceBase has a lot of features that Google Maps doesn’t, including customization and the [...]

  45. Anish E J's Blog » Apple Buys Placebase Mapping Company Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] brings out their own mapping software for the iPhone, to replace Google Maps, and according to GigaOm, PlaceBase has a lot of features that Google Maps doesn’t, including customization and the [...]

  46. TUAW | Apple bought mapping service company Placebase | Your Gadget Review Thursday, October 1, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  47. Apple tendría planes para crear su propio servicio de mapas Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] de mapas y que permite diferentes niveles de personalización. El servicio había sido alabado por GigaOm el año [...]

  48. Apple tendría planes para crear su propio servicio de mapas | celular top – descargas para celulares, aplicaciones gratis para el celular Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] de mapas y que permite diferentes niveles de personalización. El servicio había sido alabado por GigaOm el año [...]

  49. Apple bought mapping service company Placebase | ToGadget , The Guide to Gadgets Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s squeeze of Placebase, the former mapping make use of association that GigaOm was praising final year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  50. Apple and Google Breaking Up Over iPhone Maps? – Marvin Yousry Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] Google offers such a service free. GigaOm has a nice story that explains what founder Jaron Waldman hoped to accomplish. Here is an example of Placebase and its PushPin Java API in action at a site called [...]

  51. Did Apple buy mapping company Placebase? | iSawNEWS.com Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] which was said to have generated a few million dollars in revenue, designed a platform called PushPin that allowed users to build maps and customize them [...]

  52. Google and Apple- Breaking up over iPhone Maps? « 101201' s Blog Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] Google offers such a service free. GigaOm has a nice story that explains what founder Jaron Waldman hoped to accomplish. Here is an example of Placebase and its PushPin Java API in action at a site called [...]

  53. Google and Apple- Breaking up over iPhone Maps? « 101201' s Blog Friday, October 2, 2009

    [...] Google offers such a service free. GigaOm has a nice story that explains what founder Jaron Waldman hoped to accomplish. Here is an example of Placebase and its PushPin Java API in action at a site called [...]

  54. Apple’s iPhone Map Roadmap « Hot iPhone Apps Saturday, October 3, 2009

    [...] after Google Maps debuted, and as of the summer of 2008 Om Malki reported that they had managed to carve out a profitable niche providing custom mapping with a product called PushPin that went above and beyond what was possible with Google [...]

  55. Apple Geo >>> « About Geo-Infomatic by PK Sunday, October 4, 2009
  56. Apple Gets A Mapmaker. Where Does That Leave Google? « I.T News & Stuff Sunday, October 4, 2009

    [...] especially in the mobile space, and wanted to acquire talent in that field. While Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps, it also was slightly different, focusing on different layers and [...]

  57. PolicyMap » So Why Did Apple Buy a Mapping Company? Monday, October 5, 2009

    [...] in July for an undisclosed sum, according to Seth Weintraub at Computerworld. Placebase, which we wrote about last year, is a Google Maps competitor that focuses on adding layers of public and private data to existing [...]

  58. PolicyMap » Apple purchased Placebase in July, is it set to replace Google Maps on iPhone? Monday, October 5, 2009

    [...] Placebase is similar to Google Maps in that it is a mapping service and has the world mapped out. You can zoom in and out and it has different layers you can superimpose over your mapping data. It does other things better than Google, however. It was featured on GigaOM last year: [...]

  59. Apple Gets A Mapmaker. Where Does That Leave Google? « G3nt00r's Blog Monday, October 5, 2009

    [...] especially in the mobile space, and wanted to acquire talent in that field. While Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps, it also was slightly different, focusing on different layers and [...]

  60. Apple Gets A Mapmaker. Where Does That Leave Google? « G3nt00r's Blog Monday, October 5, 2009

    [...] especially in the mobile space, and wanted to acquire talent in that field. While Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps, it also was slightly different, focusing on different layers and [...]

  61. PolicyMap » Apple and Google Breaking Up Over iPhone Maps? Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    [...] Google offers such a service free. GigaOm has a nice story that explains what founder Jaron Waldman hoped to accomplish. Here is an example of Placebase and its PushPin Java API in action at a site called [...]

  62. PolicyMap » Apple bought mapping service company Placebase Thursday, October 8, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  63. Apple bought mapping service company Placebase Thursday, October 8, 2009

    [...] has noticed Apple’s purchase of Placebase, the former mapping service company that GigaOm was praising last year. Of course, this begs the question: Will Apple be rolling their own [...]

  64. Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps) [Apple] « Gadgets Club Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps—mainly, customization and tons of ways [...]

  65. Apple Maps könnte der endgültige Abschied von Google bedeuten | Basic Thinking Blog Friday, October 16, 2009

    [...] Externe Daten könnten einfach per API über auf die aktuelle Ansicht gelegt werden (mehr Hintergründe und hier eine [...]

  66. Technology blog » Apple Buys Their Very Own Maps Company (See Ya, Google Maps) [Apple] Sunday, October 25, 2009

    [...] at ComputerWorld, who put this together, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps—mainly, customization and tons of ways [...]

  67. This is the leading edge of what will soon be acknowledged by society as a huge war between Apple and Google. Its is a fact that when programming with MapKit, particularly for a private app, Google Maps policy is “hey, use it for free but if yu start making a load of money will be butt in for mmmm who knows how much!” This is not acceptable for Apple or the market.

    Hello Pacebase.com!

    Dr. Lewis
    Computer Science Department
    University of Colorado Colorado Springs

  68. It would be impressive

    If the world was confined to the United States of America
    however some of us live in little places like “London, United Kingdom” that don’t seem to be mapped.
    Google’s map covers the whole world

  69. Apple job listing suggests big changes for iPhone Maps app « Creativity Flows Monday, November 30, 2009

    [...] summer, Apple acquired Placebase, an online mapping business. Placebase managed to compete with Google Maps by offering rebranding, customizations, and features beyond what the competition could do. They [...]

  70. Is Apple Getting Ready To Go Head-To-Head With Google On Maps Apps? | All iPhone Apps Review Monday, November 30, 2009

    [...] acquired a mapping company called Placebase which hadbeen known for differentiating itself from Google’s offerings. The former CEO of Placebase is now part of the “Geo [...]

  71. Apple Gets A Mapmaker. Where Does That Leave Google? Thursday, December 17, 2009

    [...] especially in the mobile space, and wanted to acquire talent in that field. While Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps, it also was slightly different, focusing on different layers and [...]

  72. Apple Job Listing Suggests Big Changes for IPhone Maps App – New Technology Online Thursday, April 1, 2010

    [...] summer, Apple acquired Placebase, an online mapping business. Placebase managed to compete with Google Maps by offering rebranding, customizations, and features beyond what the competition could do. They [...]

  73. Apple iAd i budućnost mobilnog oglašavanja | Netokracija Thursday, April 8, 2010

    [...] kupio Quattro, platformu za mobilno oglašavanje, koja je poslužila kao osnova za iAd. Kupio je i Placebase, tvrtku koja agregira lokalne sadržaje. Placebaseov proizvod, Pushpin (službene stranice [...]

  74. Apple, Google and the map wars « counternotions Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    [...] and private datasets over data tiles targeting more sophisticated business applications. Waldman told GigaOm two years ago: Google Maps is great for consumer usage, but we are making it easy for large [...]

  75. PolicyMap » Apple, Google and the map wars Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    [...] and private datasets over data tiles targeting more sophisticated business applications. Waldman told GigaOm two years [...]

  76. Apple Acquires Poly9 Mapping Company Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    [...] for Apple. Last year, Placebase was also brought over into the fold as well. Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps that specialized in customizing the maps with customer data and locations. Placebase developed its [...]

  77. Apple Acquires Poly9 Mapping Company | iPhone, iPad Weblog Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    [...] for Apple. Last year, Placebase was also brought over into the fold as well. Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps that specialized in customizing the maps with customer data and locations. Placebase developed its [...]

  78. Report: Apple Acquires Poly9 Mapping Company | Mobile Compatible Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    [...] for Apple. Last year, Placebase was also brought over into the fold as well. Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps that specialized in customizing the maps with customer data and locations. Placebase developed its [...]

  79. Report: Apple Acquires Poly9 Mapping Company Thursday, July 15, 2010

    [...] for Apple. Last year, Placebase was also brought over into the fold as well. Placebase was a competitor to Google Maps that specialized in customizing the maps with customer data and locations. Placebase developed its [...]

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