Location, Location, Location 10 Nov 2015

“Location, location, location.”
It’s no longer just a real estate mantra. Location has become a core component to almost every industry. From the moment our smartphones wake us in the morning, through our daily commutes, the places we meet and eat, to our ride-share home at the end of the night. Every step, every activity and every comment happens at a point on the planet.

Understanding that planet and putting those locations in context is no longer the mission of just spies and soldiers. Commercialization of communication, GPS and earth observation satellites has created a $200B industry. Location technology powers countless innovations here on earth - whether it’s the hordes of driver-less cars and delivery drones we dream of in the near future or the map that is ubiquitous on every new app - everyone wants to know where you are.

Every app wants to know where you are
Every app wants to know where you are

BMW, Audi and Volkswagen recently outbid Uber to purchase their own map for $3 billion. Google spends an estimated $1 billion per year keeping location at the heart of their user experience. OpenStreetMap – the “Wikipedia of maps” – has millions of active contributors who’ve built an open source asset that is now also worth billions. Apple, Amazon, TomTom, Uber, not to mention countless startups, most non-profits and every government are investing more and more in understanding where. All of them are gobbling up location companies and technologies in an effort to control the map.
But who’s really making money from location?

For the big guys, location is a competitive necessity. Google likely doesn’t make much money from Maps directly but, by knowing where you live, where you work and where you are at all times, they understand who you are and what ads you might want to see. Apple sells more devices and makes it’s app developers more productive by offering a seamless (though sometimes mocked) location experience. Uber and the auto makers want to keep Apple and Google out of the car and hold on to their own data about drivers and customers.

What about everyone else?

Ever since smartphones killed dedicated GPS hardware, there are few location-based products or services that users pay for directly. GIS has been around since the sixties and today is a billion-dollar business. Intelligence agencies and government planners spend big bucks. Marketers and big data firms are starting to extract insights from location information. We’ve got lots of killer location apps but, in my humble opinion, we still haven’t seen the killer location business. The company or technology that can transform pervasive awareness of the location of every connected person and thing into valuable, indispensable products – without needing a multi-billion dollar advertising, hardware or automobile business to take advantage of them – will truly put location business on the map.

The location gold rush has begun… but for now we’re just panning for gold dust.

What's All the Buzz about Drones? 02 Aug 2015

There’s a lot of excitement, curiosity and concern about our not-to-distant future when the sky turns dark with drones. Whether they’re fighting our wars, getting the world online or just delivering our shopping, the possibilities for unmanned aerial vehicles seem vast. But we’re only just starting to see the startups and technologies emerge that will bring drones into the mainstream. » Read More…

Investors can Stick it Wherever 24 Jul 2015

Over the past two weeks Laia and I binge-watched the Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Created by Tina Fey, the show follows the semi-surreal themes of 30 Rock and features a strong female lead who starts off with a big disadvantage (she was trapped for 15 years in an underground bunker by a crazy apocalyptic reverend) but escapes to take on the world and doesn’t need help from anyone to succeed and be happy. » Read More…

The Product Manager's Dilemma 20 Jul 2015

The past few years have taken me on an entrepreneurial and professional journey. I started as a technologist, with a PhD in computer engineering and a deep intuition for algorithms, machine learning and deriving everything from first principles. Taking these ideas and putting them online for the world to play with taught me to become a coder and I immersed myself in web programming, databases and whole lot of StackOverflow. The final step in this evolution has been to take ideas implemented in software and match them up with actual needs of real – hopefully paying – users in the marketplace. » Read More…

Adventures With Tomnod 24 Apr 2015

Five years ago, the idea of Tomnod was born on the remote plains of Mongolia (in case you didn’t know, “Tomnod” means “Big Eye” in Mongolian). Since then, millions of people have joined our thousands of campaigns and helped us explore every corner of the planet. » Read More…

Writing is a Nice One 07 Jan 2015

New year, new resolutions, new ideas… but the same old procrastination. Among the many “best of”, “new ideas” and “top X things about Y” emails we all got as we crossed the checkpoint between last year and this year, one slapped me in the face. Make 2015 the year you get started writing1. I’ve had blogs, I’m pretty active on Twitter and I write a ton of emails but, with the days of writing college papers and school essays long behind me, I don’t really write much anymore. Well, this blog hopes to change all that. I’m not sure yet what I’ll write about. I have lots to share about the technical trivia of writing code and building websites. I love war stories and motivational messages from the startup scene. I’m more and more exctied about product managment and how good product strategy can build business and innovate the tools we love to work with and the toys we love to play with. And, of course, I love good writing, interesting thoughts and using the interwebs to share ideas.2 So bring it on 2015. Let’s write. Death to the Stock Photo is also where I got this nice header image. ↩ Yes, I’m aware of the irony in proclaiming my love for good writing using a sentence that starts with a preposition. But this is my first time wtiting in a while (see, I did it again). ↩ » Read More…

Scalling To 1 Billion Page Views 09 Apr 2014

3 Tips for Scaling to 1 Billion Page Views Last week was a time of stress, uncertainty and emotion as millions of people around the world searched and waited for any news about the location of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 that disappeared on the evening of Friday March 7. It was also a week of stress, uncertainty and emotion for the Tomnod developers as we scrambled to support millions of people from around the world searching the possible crash location on Tomnod.com. » Read More…