At 21, US immigrant entrepreneur Ben Lang has made his first million – via an investment in the start-up he co-created two years ago, called Mapme. Termed a “community visualization platform,” Mapme lets users develop maps around a specific topic – such as Start-Ups in Israel, one of the first maps the company developed.
The $1 milliion seed investment, announced Tuesday, was funded by leading investors Gigi Levy, Daniel Recanati, Kima Ventures and the DRW Trading Group and others. The funding will be used to further product development and drive the company’s continued global expansion, said Lang, who co-founded the company with his father Philippe Lang and Israeli entrepreneur Amir Zucker.
“The ability for anyone to visually map an entire ecosystem just didn’t exist before, yet its value for both those within the community and those looking to get involved is enormous,” said Lang. “We made our first hire through Mapped In Israel, our map of the Israeli start-up ecosystem that we created with the platform.”
Most people – and companies – don’t appreciate the power of mapping, and that includes giants like Google. “It’s true that Google bought Waze, which does understand how important community mapping is, but so far it seems that they are just a division of Google. The parent company is not taking advantage of how maps can be used to build community.”
That’s just fine with Mapme, which Lang believes can become the dominant force in community mapping. Mapped In Israel, for example, brings together investors, tech workers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else interested in the Israeli tech scene, and concretizes an ecosystem that might be hard to get information on otherwise. Mapped In Israel shows where tech companies are located, what they do, who their management teams are, and even if they are looking to hire workers. Users of the map can search for companies by industry, investment types, what kind of work they do, and jobs available.
Mapme itself is a proof of the effectiveness of the idea, said Lang. “I’ve had numerous venture capital funds reach out to me and tell me that they invested in start-ups that they discovered through the platform,” he said. “We’ve had constant requests from communities and organizations around the world to build their own maps.”
Another recent example of how community mapping could be used was the international hummus map Mapme created – in honor of International Hummus Day, which was invented not by the makers of Sabra products, but by Lang and the Mapme crew. The map now contains entries from hummus lovers around the world (including Lebanon and Egypt) on favorite hummus joints and manufacturing sites. The map – and the day of hummus celebration – proved to be a very effective tool in bringing together lovers of the chickpea concoction. In the space of less than 24 hours we got over 20,000 hits,” said Lang. “Hummus is clearly an international favorite.”
Indeed, said Lang, Mapme has proven extremely popular with all sorts of people. “We have over 100 maps in 30 countries showing where people can find vegan restaurants, bitcoin cash machines, Ukraine start-ups, and many more. We’ve gotten hundreds of applications for access, and in the coming months we expect to be able to open the platform for all users.”
Map organizers are responsible for filling in all the current startup activity taking place in their city. This means giving a brief description of active firms, their precise addresses, and a link to their websites and social media pages. Then, the city or country map is opened up to public users of the site. Local innovators, for example, might fill in some holes—where a newly launched tech firm has opened up, or where an unmarked investment group is located. (Every open-source addition must be approved by the map organizer to ensure its accuracy.)
Lang says he envisions the tool evolving into an interconnected directory of startup activity, where interested parties can bounce from city to city, discovering tech innovation in all corners of the globe. “Once we have thousands and tens of thousands of these maps, it will definitely become a huge resource in terms of places and communities. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an ecosystem focused on tech, wine or hummus, Mapme is an extremely exciting, beneficial and comprehensive visualization, marketing and networking platform.”