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The Gorilla Enters the Room, Now What? Indoor Mapping & Google
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 | Comments | Latest Posts
Image representing Point Inside as depicted in...
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It’s the inevitable question if you work in the startup world. We hear it at every accelerator interview, in talks with investors, and during casual chatter at networking events: What’s your plan when the big gorilla moves into your space? With mobile currently one of the sexy spaces for startups and enterprises alike, it should be no surprise that this is happening now for a subset of mobile companies. Which subset is this? Indoor mapping.

If you’ve ever been lost inside a maze of hospital rooms, college classrooms, or mall stores, you’ve felt the need for indoor maps. The rise of smartphones and the increasing precision of location-aware technology have combined to create viable solutions for the emerging indoor mapping market. Startups Point Inside and BuildingLayer leverage these technologies to provide an in-depth experience for folks inside of buildings, a place where Google Maps had previously failed to provide coverage. When this space was primarily addressed by startups, these companies had room to innovate and grow. They monetized indoor mapping with innovative solutions where companies like Clear Channel had previously offered simple mall maps and advertisements.

With the advent of mobile and location-awareness, indoor mapping became more relevant, either to enable retailers to proactively engage with consumers, or to provide guidance in non-retail settings such as corporate campuses, hospitals, and manufacturing interests. And now that indoor mapping has become a necessity, the gorilla has arrived with a solution. Google has enabled user submissions of indoor mapping and is working with municipalities and large organizations to map airports and malls. While this comes as no surprise to many, the startups in this space now have to answer the question: What is your plan?

Having met the founder of BuildingLayer at a BetaSpring event last winter, I can say from personal experience that the company is none too worried. For the first day or two after Google’s announcement, BuildingLayer was understandably scared. Fear soon changed to a sense of confirmation in themselves and their investors that they chose the right space to attack. Confirmation then moved to strategy and cautious optimism as they realized that, compared to the lumbering gorilla, their company is the jaguar with an ability to innovate faster and quickly enter new niches. The company maintains cautious optimism because Google has not quite attacked its target expertise (indoor mapping for private, non-retail institutions).

But what about Point Inside? There is definite overlap between Google’s efforts and those of this retail-oriented mapping company. And though Google hasn’t rolled out a clear connection between its ads and its indoor mapping efforts, the advertising gorilla will surely look to muscle out the competition in this area specifically. It’s now time for competitors like Point Inside to find their inner jaguar and innovate faster, finding new intersections with mobile capabilities and trends before Google does, and not looking back at the lumbering gorilla. If anyone from Point Inside (or other indoor mapping startups) is reading this, we’d love to hear more about your plans for addressing the gorilla!

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