Whatamap.com Ltd published Thursday a new mobile map service allowing users to create, find, and share maps on the web, and download those directly to the their cell phones as Java applications anywhere in the world. The target of Whatamap.com is nothing less than to be the world's best consumer map service.
CEO Matti Saarinen explains Whatamap.com takes you from where you're left with Google Maps mobile. He stated one can use Google or Nokia maps to get somewhere by car, but when you get on foot, you'll need something more detailed than just road maps showing buildings or park areas. Pedestrian maps should look nice and show information related to the specific usage context, like store locations, restaurants, and meeting places in parks. This is backed up by also Nokia stating interest in pedestrian maps.
Whatamap.com's offering includes fully-customizable maps, which can be either created by private users, or offered to visitors by different public and commercial property owners. Whatamap.com is currently building up its customer network in Finland, while developing partnering deals in Middle-Europe. The business model is built to scale - partners abroad can handle sales, implementation, and deployment by themselves with the web tools.
In the press conference were Risto Räikkönen, Managing Director of the Children's Day Foundation (operating Linnanmäki amusement park in Helsinki) and Atte Köykkä, Shopping Center Manager of Shopping mall Itäkeskus (biggest in the Nordic countries) explaining their organization's reasoning on getting aboard. Both are pioneering with the solution, and Itäkeskus already offers its visitors the possibility to download the map of the mall to their mobile just by sending a normal SMS to a shortcode number presented on the info signs.
Partners can also add context-related information and places on the map along with advertisements. Similarly consumers can create and share their maps on the web automatically, and add points of interest (e.g. interesting places, bars, shops) and - GPS points. Adding the GPS points makes all the difference, since by doing that you can locate yourself even on a totally custom-made and shaped map with your GPS phone.
An impressive example is the map of Himos (a smallish skiing center in Southern Finland) - it presents a panoranic map of all skiing routes, but also the services from rentals to restaurants and first aid. (Most of the services you can also call to with just a couple of clicks.) With Whatamap.com's proprietory technology, GPS positioning will work on this panoramic map also - and on any other type of map, as long as you'll place a few GPS fixed points on the map, done by using Google Maps interface on the Whatamap.com's web page.
This born-global company has been founded in the beginning of 2007, and it currently employes 11 people, out of which most are owners. There are former Nokia and TeliaSonera managers aboard to bring business and user focus to the company. The map technology is based on several patents, with more coming. Whatamap.com has been operating with TEKES funding so far, but the first VC funding round will most likely take place early next year. The firm is looking for international venture capitalists to speed up access to global markets.
It's great to see a new Finnish startup with real drive to grow and conquer. Having tested their service on both web and mobile, it seems Whatamap.com might very well be onto something here. We'll be following up closely on this one.
A related hint on the topic:
If you know Finnish, you might want to see recording of last Wednesday's A-plus talk show, with Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki (Executive Vice President and General Manager of Multimedia) and Google's Petri Kokko (Country Manager, Finland) in studio discussing the convergence of mobile and internet. Maps are an essential part of the conversation, and Vanjoki e.g. states the mobile map in the always-on mobile internet age is a whole new platform with huge amount of possibilies, while Kokko also concords mobile maps will offer lots of services in addition to just routes.