Learn how CartoDB’s location intelligence platform will help shape the future of Smart Cities

Sponsored post: CartoDB is showing the way in smart city technology with location intelligence. Learn how their vizualiation tool wi

cartodb smart cities

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored article, which means that it’s financially supported by CartoDB. This article has been written by them with Novobrief’s supervision.

CartoDB is showing the way in smart city technology with location intelligence.

Today we are more connected than ever before. We use technology to enhance, share and control the world immediately around us -turning on lights, locating the nearest bike rack or parking space- from our smart devices. More subtly, connectivity is also expressed at the community and city level, where improved communication, participation and collaboration has increased with access to data and information from agencies, institutions and citizens.

CartoDB, the leading company for location data analysis and visualization, was recently featured as one of the innovating technology companies from New York at Barcelona’s Smart City Expo World Congress.

“The projects in the pipeline that were demonstrated in Barcelona, including one with Mexico City, are some of CartoDB’s most ambitious, complex, ventures to date, and have the potential to redefine the standards of living,” says Santiago Giraldo, Senior Technical Evangelist for CartoDB.

CartoDB makes it easy to turn geospatial datasets into critical, shareable insights that streamline inter-agency communication and decision making. The location intelligence platform allows any state, city, and country to turn geospatial datasets into meaningful visualizations and critical insights powered by unparalleled ease of integration, data processing capacity, and analytical speeds with cutting-edge design.

Location data is paramount to intelligent cities planning and development. Geographical information provides a common frame of reference and big picture analysis for entrepreneurs, citizens and policymakers alike. The availability of geo-tagged data creates rich new layers of information that can be utilized at scale to create evolving solutions for more livable cities, intelligent policy and design, better research, improved emergency response, predictive analysis and economic opportunity.

“We’re discovering unprecedented opportunities to empower citizens and government agencies with everything from biking and housing apps, to risk platforms and customazible city dashboards,” continues Giraldo.

Citizen participation is now acknowledged as an essential ingredient for intelligent city innovation, success and longevity. The ideal vision for smart cities is one where infrastructure and services are connected with technology to empower informed citizens and government officials across agencies as partners.

The savvy smart city is one where technology and data serves the goal of improving standards of living, including sustainable use of resources and pollution reduction. Local authorities are looking for ways to maximize shrinking resources –to do more, to do it more efficiently, and to use data for informed decision-making. Municipalities must manage these services across geographic areas, and the ability to harness real-time data is vital for understanding and analysis.

To learn more about how CartoDB can empower your city government, visit their resource center.

CartoDB closes $23M Series B round led by Accel Partners to accelerate US expansion

Madrid-based CartoDB has closed a $23 million investment from Accel Partners and Salesforce Ventures. As a result, the company will move its headquarters to NYC.

cartodb funding

Mapping and geospatial visualisation company CartoDB has closed a $23 million Series B investment. Accel Partners leads the round, with previous investors Earlybird VC and Kibo Ventures also participating in the deal. Salesforce’s venture arm, Salesforce Ventures, is also joining CartoDB for the ride, with a minority stake in the now NYC-based company.

On Accel’s part, the investment was led by Harry Nelis, who joined the London firm in 2004 after spending a significant portion of his career at hedge fund Perry Capital and in M&A at Goldman Sachs. Nelis led Accel’s investment in KAYAK, which ended up going public in July 2012 and acquired by Priceline in 2013 for more than $3 billion.

Salesforce’s experience in selling SaaS products and software to large organisations will also come in handy, the company says.

CartoDB raised its $8 million Series A round exactly a year ago, in September 2014. Since then, the company has experienced significant growth on various fronts. Not only in media exposure with its now famous maps populating articles on big publications like The Guardian or on Twitter, but also on the business side of things.

The company’s revenue (measured as MRR) has grown 250% over the past year and that the company has won new large clients such as Amtrak, Deloitte, Royal Bank of Scotland or the cities of New York and Mexico DF. The number of customers has increased by 300% YoY.

“The real challenge over the next few years is to maintain this kind of growth”, CartoDB’s co-founder Sergio Leiva said in a statement.

Asked about the decision to raise another big round in such a short period of time, he admits that their current growth combined with favorable market conditions made it a no brainer. “Closing this type of rounds usually takes between 3 to 6 months, but given the current state of the market and our trajectory, we were able to accelerate the whole process and close it faster than we imagined”.

CartoDB will move its headquarters to New York

CartoDB is an open source product that stems from Madrid-based consulting company Vizzuality, which was co-founded by Sergio and Javier de la Torre in 2009. Up until its Series A, CartoDB was bootstrapped and reached more than €1 million in annual sales.

These days CartoDB is formed my two main products: the platform and the editor. The former is the one that is often integrated in the technical and development stack of companies, allowing these to make better decisions based on geospatial data and apply what the Spanish startup refers to as “local intelligence”. CartoDB’s editor, on the other hand, allows all kinds of users to visualise data on maps.

A key role in the integration of CartoDB’s platform in large clients are so-called partners, an area that is is working really well for the 60-person company. Partners help CartoDB integrate their software in big organisations, becoming a significant sales channel that helps the company amplify their audience and reach. “It’s very important for us to grow as an ecosystem, represented by our community of users, clients and partners”, CartoDB said in a statement.

CartoDB’s Series B also means that the company will move its headquarters to New York City, where they’ve had an office for a couple of years and where most of their big business relationships are being established.

Although the product team will remain in Madrid and the company plans to increase its size, Sergio admits that the idea is to grow its NYC-based team at a faster pace, especially in terms of data scientists, local intelligence staff and sales.

This, however, doesn’t mean that Spain won’t remain important in CartoDB’s future. “We’ve grown tremendously in Spain over the past few years and there’s still a big opportunity to become a leading startup in the country, attracting tech talent and helping startups become more important at a local level”, he explains.

As many have said in the past, there’s a lack of senior talent in Spain at various levels (technical, sales, marketing, etc) and stories and experiences like CartoDB’s and others will hopefully help in filling that gap.

As for the future of the company, Sergio says that the key is in convincing enterprises that the analysis of geospatial data is a must. “The companies that understand the value of this kind of data and how to take advantage of it will be much more efficient going forward. Knowing not only why things happen but where they happen is of enormous value to both CartoDB and the companies themselves”.

Bootstrapping in Spain: when raising capital is not the only way to grow

At times, startups can choose to grow on their own or raise capital from investors. In this article we talk to some of the main boostrapped startups in Spain to know more about their journey.

bootstrapped startups spain

At a time when the level of investments in Spanish startups is higher than ever and there’s more capital than projects to back, it’s worth noting that raising funds from VCs or business angels is not the only way to go.

Over the years Spain has seen the creation and growth of various tech companies that haven’t had to reach out to investors from the very beginning, trusting their instincts, product and sales operations to build a business before -if ever- VCs join the party.

Building companies in Spain with your own cash

When online travel agency Destinia.com was born in 2001, the Spanish startup scene was far from its current size and still recovering from the burst of the dotcom bubble. However, this didn’t stop Egypt-born Amuda Goueli and his co-founder from launching the site with the aim of becoming a truly global online travel agency based in Madrid.

Something that they did without the help of investors and by reinvesting most of the company’s revenue in its own growth and development. “I’ve always defended the idea that when you start a business, you can’t be only thinking about getting rich”, Amuda tells Novobrief in an interview. “If you do that, when you face adversity -and you certainly will- you’ll just give up and start something else”. The 100+ person company has never disclosed its revenues, but we understand they are above €10 million and growing since the financial crisis of 2008.

Leaving personal criteria aside, it’s certainly true that not raising money from investors -especially at the very beginning- gives startups and companies freedom that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Despite what some startups and entrepreneurs still think, investors are in the game to make money and provide a return to their LPs. And, at times, this affects the way companies operate and their priorities.

“I think VCs and investors play a very important role in the ecosystem”, ADTZ’s co-founder Juan Domínguez says. “However, I’d suggest to any entrepreneur to wait as much as possible to bring investors on board for three main reasons: raising money takes a lot of time, the objectives of VCs and entrepreneurs are usually not aligned and, third, companies should aim to become cash-flow positive to survive, instead of relying on investors to pay the bills”.

Juan says this from his own experience of building both VC-backed and bootstrapped companies. He was one of the original founders of Viajar.com and managed to sell it to Grupo Orizonia for an undisclosed sum, without having to raise external funding. Few years later he launched private travel sales site Club Santa Mónica, which did not succeed and left “a bad experience in terms of working with VCs”.

This might help explain why he decided that ADTZ would grow organically, with no help from VCs at the early stage. The social advertising company, which was born in 2008, currently employs more than 70 people and had sales of €23 million in 2014, up from €15 million in the previous year.

Controlling your own destiny

(The video above is a classic talk by David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp (37Signals), about boostrapped companies) 

All bootstrapped startups Novobrief talked to pointed to the fact that this form of growth allows them to control their own destiny, by not giving up a stake of the company to investors and thus controlling all aspects associated to the business. “If you raise money too early you might do so with a very low valuation”, Juan Domínguez says. “And in most of those cases founders end up giving up too much of their startups”.

Wences García is the co-founder of MarketGoo, an online marketing software company focused on helping users and brands improve its SEO. The company was born as a spin-off of advertising agency Vexlan and it now operates independently; although the company declined to disclose sales figures, we understand that it’s doing fairly well both in terms of users and revenue.

“To be able to operate as a bootstrapped company you need to have a business model that generates cash flows quickly. If you’re able to achieve this, it will make your company much more efficient”, Wences says. “It’s also important to understand that bootstrapped startups tend to grow slower than VC-baked ones. However, it’s also true that you have a bigger margin of error and you can usually try more things”.

“To us it’s fundamental to have this sense of freedom and to be able to combine two key aspects: work and our own lives”, he explains. “That said, we’re not dogmatic about it and if at some point we need to raise money, we’ll certainly give it a try”.

When raising capital is useful, and most importantly, needed

bootstrapped spanish startups

The fact that startups can be bootstrapped at the early stage doesn’t mean that Venture Capital might not end up being useful later on, as companies mature and need capital to grow in certain areas.

Sergio Álvarez, co-founder of CartoDB, experienced this first hand. Formerly known as Vizzuality and founded in 2009, the company was bootstrapped up until last year, when CartoDB raised $8 million from Earlybird VC, Kibo Ventures and Vitamina K.

More than five years growing with their own money and with some small help European public institutions that didn’t stop CartoDB from scaling. At the time of the investment, CartoDB had annual revenues of €1.5 million, 16 employees and had already opened an office in New York City.

Why raise money, then? “Speed, being able to widen our vision and focus”, Sergio tells us. “This capital also allows us to be more risky and focus 100% on product; before we always had to complement the product side of things with consultancy work that was a significant part of our income.”

ADTZ’s Juan Domínguez is on the same page, and he admits that the company is currently raising its first round of funding after years of growing bootstrapped. “I still believe that if you can grow on your own, you should totally do it”, he says. “However, I also believe that, at the right time, VCs can become essential. In our case to buy other companies and grow in two main areas: product (mobile, video) and geographically (Latin America)”.

A process -raising capital- that takes time and can move entrepreneurs away from what should be their main focus. At a time when it seems that raising capital has become a true milestone in the life of a startup, Amuda concedes that “entrepreneurs’ major obsession should be their idea, their product and their business. Funding is a tool, but the company should be the goal, the end point. That’s what’key.”

Photo | jarmoluk

As Google Maps Engine’s run comes to an end, CartoDB positions itself as the best mapping alternative

Madrid-based and mapping startup CartoDB launches CartoDB on Google Platform as the search giant plans to sunset Google Maps Engine.

cartodb google platform

Google announced this week the sunset of Google Maps Engine, the browser based application from the search giant that allows users to upload their own map data and have it displayed as layers above Google Maps. Many were surprised about this decision, but Madrid-based CartoDB probably wasn’t.

Just as rumours started flying about GME’s end, CartoDB announced that it has been working “closely” with Google to create CartoDB on Google Platform, a product that has positioned itself as one of the best alternatives to all of those developers and users who have relied on GME up until now.

While both products are very similar, CartoDB has published a blog post outlining the main differences between them.

It’s worth pointing out that, contrary to what many have said over the past few days, this announcement from Google does not mean that an end for Google’s Maps API is coming. It will stay intact and CartoDB even claims that “CartoDB for Google Cloud ensures that GME customers will have all the power of Google Maps API available on CartoDB”.

Users or developers that have a Google Maps Engine account and have built vizualisations using GME have until January 29, 2016 to find an alternative. CartoDB says that it will help migrate users’ data so that they can start using their tool right away, without losing any data.

This represents another milestone in CartoDB’s prominent career. After being bootstrapped for more than 5 years, the company raised its first round of financing in 2014 ($8 million, led by Berlin-based Earlybird VC) and it continues to push the gas pedal.

Map it out: CartoDB raises $8M from Earlybird VC, Kibo Ventures and Vitamina K

Madrid-based CartoDB has raised $8 million from Earlybird Venture Capital, Kibo Ventures and Vitamina K. The mapping company is one of the most promising software startups to come out of Spain in recent years.

cartodb Now we know why Ciaran O’Leary and Simon Schmincke came to Madrid at the beginning of July. Let’s be honest, you don’t come to Madrid in the middle of the summer unless you have something really important to do; otherwise you’d go to Barcelona, Mallorca or the beautiful and unknown Northern coast of Spain. But they did have an important reason to come to the city.

Yesterday we found out that the Berlin-based firm Earlybird Venture Capital is the lead investor in mapping startup CartoDB, one of the best software companies to come out of Spain in recent years. Earlybird VC and Spanish firms Kibo Ventures and Vitamina K have invested $8 million in the company, the first big round of financing for the Spanish startup which until recently was a growing bootstrapped business.

CartoDB was founded 5 years ago as Vizzuality by Sergio Leiva and Javier de la Torre and the launch of its main product, CartoDB, changed its future forever. The company has offices in Madrid, New York and Berlin, it employs more than 30 people and has more than 600 paying clients, including the likes of Twitter, Nokia, The Wall Street Journal, BBVA or the United Nations.

CartoDB in the news

A lot has been published about CartoDB in the past few days, so instead of reproducing what’s already out there I’ll link to the most interesting stories. Some say that they might end up becoming the biggest exit in Spanish history for a software company, and it’s hard to argue with that.

Investor Ciaran O’Leary of Earlybird Venture Capital says the company focuses on “combining data with maps” and providing user-friendly data visualization software, rather than amassing and selling proprietary geographic information like legacy map tech businesses.

“People increasingly need these kind of tools to display their work, but also to find data to be inspired by and to inform their work,” the investor said.

As CEO Javier de la Torre told me, CartoDB sees the U.S. as a “commercialization market to get started” – more than 60 percent of its current revenue comes from there, so it wants to be closer to the action. “When we created our product, we knew the U.S. was a much more mature market for us to come and launch an innovation – an easier market to get started when you’re introducing new technology,” he said. However, 30 percent of the company’s revenue still comes from Europe, and CartoDB’s “biggest offices will remain in Madrid” for core engineering and so on. “We’re definitely staying in Europe,” he said.

The company uses a so-called freemium model, in which people can use a basic version of the software free, but must pay for premium services like uploading large data sets and keeping information private. (All data is publicly-accessible in the free version.)

“These are insights that people could never have seen before the data was placed on a map,” said Javier de la Torre, 35, who co-founded the company in 2009 and now splits his time between Madrid and New York. “We want to put the power of this type of data analysis in the hands of the people.”

Some of their competitors include Esri and Google Maps Engine (the B2B side of Google Maps). More distant competitors are Mapbox and Here (owned by Nokia). However, CartoDB’s pitch is that it wants to be stronger in dynamic or real time maps, and in visualisation. They also aim to expand what they describe as ‘storytelling’ their capabilities, which is effectively layering social network data and content over maps.