Crypto-enabled mapping startup Hivemapper is trying to give Google Maps a run for its money.
The San Francisco-based company has raised $18 million in a funding round led that was by Multicoin Capital. Some big names from crypto and technology also invested, including Anatoly Yakovenko and Raj Gokal, the founders of the Solana blockchain; Jaron Waldman, a former Apple Maps executive; and Amir Haleem, CEO of Helium, which is another blockchain.
According to CEO Ariel Seidman, the funds will be used to support the mainnet launch of Hivemapper’s native HONEY token and to get more map contributors. In exchange for HONEY tokens, the map contributors install specially designed dashcams in their cars that share footage with Hivemapper, which is then used to create maps.
Seidman, who started Hivemapper as a non-crypto company in 2015, told CoinDesk he was inspired by the success and rapid growth of Helium, a crypto-incentivized network of wireless hotspots, which also began as a non-crypto company in 2013.
Seidman envisions Hivemapper’s primary customer – at least for the next two or three years – will be businesses looking for a cheaper and more up-to-date alternative to Google Maps.
“Google’s maps are high quality but also very, very expensive,” Seidman said. “The entire mapping pipeline is exceptional, but its Achilles heel is the fact that it’s so expensive. Your ability to refresh an area is, for places like Lagos, Nigeria, or Manila or other locations – it becomes cost-prohibitive over time.”
Because Hivemapper sells equipment to independent contributors who have their own vehicles, the company's cost is much lower, Seidman explained.
“If you look in Palo Alto – Google Street View for University Avenue, which is in Google’s backyard – probably gets updated every 14 months,” Seidman said. “For the same price, we could probably do it once a week.”
Though the maps and data generated by Hivemapper contributors are open source and community owned, Seidman says Hivemapper will generate revenue by building tools that can then be licensed by companies.
Contributors will be rewarded with HONEY tokens which, like Helium’s native HNT token, could grow in value as the network takes off.
Seidman pointed out that many current contributors to map apps like Waze work for free, simply because they love the work.
“Even as wonderful as Waze was, there are now something like 25,000 Waze map editors. These are people sitting behind their computer screen editing maps … on behalf of what is effectively a multitrillion-dollar company,” Seidman said.
“And they don’t get paid, there’s nothing they get in return for that. They get, maybe, a Google T-shirt or a Waze hat, but that doesn’t sit right with me,” he added.
Hivemapper will also reward map editors – not just dashcam operators – with HONEY tokens.
The company’s first dashcam, which is being made in Pittsburgh, is expected to begin shipping in July.
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