A global approach to mapping entrepreneurism mapme.com

Take a look at the startup scenes of Portugal, Toronto, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere with this new mapping tool.

Last week CityLab introduced you to Startup Amsterdam—a new interactive map showcasing the dutch capital's growing tech scene. This week we give you Mapme: An interactive mapping tool that aims to showcase startup activity across the world.

Launched earlier this year, Mapme pinpoints the crucial players of a budding tech ecosystem: Startups, incubators, co-working spaces, and investors, among others. Both the Jerusalem Post and Inc.com named the website one of the top apps to look for in 2015. Mapme is unique because its opensourced maps are not restricted to the tech scenes of a single city or country.

In its early-stage form, Mapme already allows users to navigate a handful of places. This includes the startup scene of Porto, the second-largest city of Portugal, as well as Ukraine, Finland, Israel, and New York. Ben Lang, co-founder of Mapme, 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," Lang says.

Startups mapped in Porto, Portugal (left) and Toronto, Canada (right) (mapme.com)

Mapme uses "map organizers," often tech entrepreneurs based in cities across the world, to create reliable maps. They essentially act as Mapme's team of watchdogs.

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 tech 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.)

Such an ambitious project inevitably comes with challenges, however. Most glaring is whether a broad map of tech activity is really that functional. As I wrote recently, Amsterdam's new interactive startup map is so innovative in part because it's highly specific. It's a directory for tech firms located solely in Amsterdam—most of which are housed downtown. The map has a precise function in a precise location. If Mapme expands to include an even greater variety of cities and countries, as it intends to do, will it simply become too big to be reliable and useful? Potentially. But a soon-to-be-released function of the site could quash this problem.

A Mapme generated map of Israel. (mapme.com)

Mapme will soon host a job board for tech entrepreneurs in each map. It's a great way to generate continued interest in specific cities—and to eventually make the site profitable.

If an entrepreneur from Israel is interested in moving operations to Portugal, for instance, he or she will be able to scope out the tech circuit in various Portuguese cities and discover where hiring is most robust. An investor will be able to get a feel for how fast a city's tech scene is expanding. When it's ultimately rolled out, Mapme's jobs board should resemble a sort of hybrid destination for services provided by LinkedIn, Google Maps, and CrunchBase—all useful for tech entrepreneurs interested in cities. "It's going to keep people coming back to specific maps," explains Kenny Goldman, a Toronto-based map organizer for Mapme.

All of this boils down to one simple fact: Open-source mapping, public participation, and startups are changing the way we interact with and perceive cities—and business.  

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