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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.

By Om Malik

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  1. @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 :-)

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

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  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.

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  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.

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

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

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

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  8. 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?

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  9. 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.

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

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    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.

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      1. Professional webmapper 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.

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  10. [...] 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 [...]

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  11. [...] 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 [...]

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  12. [...] 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 [...]

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

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

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  15. [...] 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 [...]

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  16. [...] 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. [...]

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  17. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  18. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  19. [...] 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 [...]

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  20. [...] 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 [...]

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

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

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  23. [...] 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 [...]

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  24. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  25. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  26. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  27. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  28. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  29. [...] 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 [...]

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  30. [...] 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 [...]

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  31. [...] 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 [...]

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  32. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  33. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  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.

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

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  36. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  37. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  38. [...] 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 [...]

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

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  40. [...] 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 [...]

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  41. [...] 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 [...]

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

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  43. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  44. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  45. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  46. [...] 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 [...]

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

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

    Share
  49. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  50. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  51. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  52. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  53. [...] 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 [...]

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  54. [...] 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 [...]

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  55. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  56. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  57. [...] 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: [...]

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  58. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  59. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  60. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  61. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  62. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  63. [...] 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 [...]

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

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  65. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  66. 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

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  67. 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

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  68. [...] 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 [...]

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  69. [...] 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 [...]

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  70. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  71. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  72. [...] 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 [...]

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  73. [...] 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 [...]

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

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  75. [...] 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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  76. [...] 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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  77. [...] 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 [...]

    Share
  78. [...] 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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