Kitchener startup MappedIn managed a staggering 500 percent sales growth over the past year while pursuing its simple mission of helping people find things indoors.
MappedIn provides customizable interactive maps for retailers that are seeking to make navigation easier for their shoppers.
“Everyone knows the Canadian Tire experience on a Saturday morning,” said Co-Founder Hongwei Liu, “When you need one thing and it takes you 20 minutes to buy it. We think there’s tremendous benefit in people being able to self-serve.”
Liu added, “If you imagine the retail store of the future five years out, it’s unimaginable that that technology won’t exist. It’s so obvious, but it’s hard to do because managing the data is hard.”
The company simultaneously was founded and launched four-and-a-half years ago when Liu, Mitchell Butler and Leander Lee, all students at the University of Waterloo, showed their then side-project to the general manager of a local mall. She immediately put in an order to purchase a system for use during the Christmas rush, mere weeks away.
“From there, it’s sort of been this epic journey of trying to move as fast as we can,” said Liu, who noted that he and Butler have deferred their degrees while pursuing the company.
“Certainly, I don’t think Mitch and I would be doing what we’re doing right now if it wasn’t for the influence of the school and the community.”
MappedIn’s maps are currently at use or will be soon in use at nine out of 10 of the biggest malls in Canada, and the company works with the four major premium mall owners in the nation, each of which own and manage tens or even hundreds of sites. Liu estimates they work with a total of about 50 companies, but across them support hundreds if not thousands of sites. Perhaps most impressively, they haven’t lost a customer yet.
MappedIn also has a few U.S. clients, including high-fi wireless speaker manufacturer Sonos, which uses the map internally to aid in finding employee workspaces in a densely populated office. Liu noted that the 24-person company also just won what will be a landmark deal in the states, though he is not yet able to discuss the details.
Liu says MappedIn’s main competition comes in the form of individual agencies that will create similar systems from scratch that will look good within the first month, but quickly go out of date.
“Our biggest difference is that we take the time to build up the infrastructure to maintain and automate an indoor dataset, a real-time view of what’s indoors.”
The last round of funding for the company closed March 2015 with $1.5 million raised. Liu said the company prefers organic growth but would raise capital again if the right funding opportunity arises.
“We see tremendous opportunity in the space we’re in,” said Liu, “In some ways we haven’t even really gotten started in turning the taps on.”