Mapbox Raised $52.55M in Series B Financing

Mapping platform Mapbox announced today a series B financing of $52.55M.

“DFJ Growth led this round, and Randy Glein will be joining our board. Foundry Group is following on their series A investment. DBL Partners is investing from their new fund, with Ira Ehrenpreis joining our board. We’re also excited to have Thrive Capital, Pritzker Group, Promus Ventures, and Jon Winkelried, the former President of Goldman Sachs, join the team,“ explained Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen in a blog post.

Created in 2010 and based between Washington D.C. and San Francisco (with data teams in Peru and India), it has a staff of more than 90 people. They already raised $10 million in a series A round in October 2013.

Mapbox is an independent mapping platform which core offering is to render map data for all sort of use cases and different platforms: web, iOS, Android and more. Map box just announced last week they will be powering MapQuest (read more here).

The DNA of the company is around open source software and open source data, i.e. Openstreetmap, but Mapbox platform can render any type of data: TomTom, HERE or any other mapping provider and also digital imagery (paid or free).

The differentiation brought by Mapbox since its beginning lies in the ability for clients to easily customize, design and – to certain extend – “brand“ their maps (colors, contrasts, fonts, zoom levels, details, etc).

While Google accustomed us to have one map for every purpose, Mapbox paradigm is the exact opposite, providing their B2B customers – and end users – one different map for each purpose.

See below a short overview of Mapbox map styling:

IoT Network Actility Gets $25M In Funding Round

IoT network vendor Actility has announced today a $25 million funding round led by Ginko Ventures, KPN, Orange, Swisscom and Foxconn along with the existing investors BPI France, Idinvest Partners, and Truffle Capital.

The investment will allow Actility to accelerate its go-to-market strategy for ThingPark, a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) radio network built on LoRaWAN, a standard developed and supported by the LoRa Alliance.

ThingPark Wireless uses Spread Spectrum modulation allowing for coverage on a range of 2 to 5 km in dense city areas and up to 15 km for countryside applications.

ThingPark Wireless provides access to a cloud platform and APIs, plus a “Store“ where they sell development kits, devices and applications.

On the heels of a €10 million funding for Qowisio last week (read here) and a partnership/funding deal between Sigfox and Samsung yesterday (read here), investments in IoT networks are all the rage at the moment.

Want to learn more about geolocation and Internet of Things? Join us at Geo IoT in Marseille, France, on Sept 17, 2015 – http://www.m2minnovationworld.com/program#geoiot

Aftermarket Connected Car Startup Vinli Raised $6.5M

Vinli, a Dallas-based startup developing a connected car aftermarket solution, announced today to have raised a $6.5 million Series A financing led by Samsung Venture Investment Corporation.

Cox Automotive, The Westly Group, and Continental also participated in the round.

Vinli is basically an OBD dongle that connects with a number of third party apps and services and a Wi-Fi hotspot for car passengers powered by the LTE 4G network of T-Mobile.

The startup has partnered with other app developers such as Samsung Smart Things, Dash, MileIQ, Flo, Beagle, Drive, Otto, Race, SafeDrive, ParkHub, Lock&Key that have integrated their solution in the software suite.

The device has just been launched in a crowdfunding campaign (targeting $75,000) on Indiegogo. Its pre-ordering price is $99 (plus a subscription for Wi-Fi) with a shipping date expected in August 2015.

Large offering of OBD-based services for unconnected cars

Vinli comes as a close competitor to Vancouver-based Mojio that raised $8 million in March (read here) and offers a similar connected OBD dongle plus third party apps – although without Wi-Fi hotspot.

In this category one can also pinpoint Automatic (20 apps available, Bluetooth but independent cellular connection) and Zubie in the United States.

AutoMile, based out of Sweden, which received a $5 million funding in May (read here) is focussing on a smaller range of services.

Some other OBD dongles, like Mechanic Advisor (read here) and OpenbayConnect (read here) are focussing essentially on the connection of cars and drivers with auto repair shops.

CarLock (available in Europe and the United States) is focussing on location monitoring and antitheft, while Drust (France) and GoFar (Australia – read here) are targeting “better driving“, i.e. mostly gas saving.

The big question mark of this OBD market is the demand from consumers and the appetite of retail.

Venture capital firms have poured a lot of money at this burgeoning market, yet there is not a clear view if this is going to be a consumer hit.

Insurance Telematics: $22M DriveFactor Acquisition is from CCC

Last week we learned that insurance telematics start-up DriveFactor was acquired for $22 million, from an unknown party. But today CCC Information Services (CCC) confirmed this acquisition.

CCC is a large SaaS technology provider to the U.S. auto insurance industry. The company works with more than 350 insurance carriers and more than 21,000 repair facilities, processing the majority of automotive claims in the U.S. each year.

This acquisition will therefore expands its services in an adjacent space that currently experiences significant growth.

“DriveFactor’s technology provides superior flexibility and data quality for underwriting and marketing, and by integrating telematics data into existing claims operations carriers will have the first full-service solution to satisfy their policyholders and improve efficiency,“ said Marc Fredman, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Development at CCC.

Nokia Here Bidding War, More Subtle Than it Appears

According to an article in the New York Times last week Uber would have made a $3 Billion bid on HERE, the digital map division of Nokia.

This follows on the heels of the Wall Street Journal announcing a competing bidding consortium formed by Audi, BMW, Daimler and Baidu.

Until this point none of the companies involved have confirmed these news.

Uber & deCarta

What is interesting to point out is that two elements seem illogical in these announcements.

The first one is that Uber already bought a LBS infrastructure company, deCarta, two months ago (read here). deCarta is offering a software platform that provides map visualization, geocoding, local search and navigation. If Uber had in mind of buying HERE they would not have bought deCarta since Here has the same capabilities on top of its map data.

Volkswagen, Audi & TomTom

The second illogical element is that Audi – and the Volkswagen group at large – have been signing multiple agreements with TomTom – instead of Here – in the last few months.

Volkswagen of America has inked a deal with TomTom (read here) for maps which was announced in January 2015; and Volkswagen and Audi will be using TomTom traffic information in Europe (read here) according to a joint announcement made in February.

TomTom and the Volkswagen group have also signed a research and development agreement about highly automated cars (read here) in October 2014. As a first element of this agreement the automated drive of an Audi car between San Francisco and Las Vegas last January at the time of CES was performed using a high accuracy map from TomTom.

Therefore there not would be much logic for Volkswagen in investing in Here while running a major R&D program with TomTom on what appears to be the future of the car industry.

Poker game

The complexity of this bidding war is that, like in a poker game, there are false contenders, companies bidding – or leaking to the press the fact they could bid even if they are not – not to win but to put pressure either on their competitors or on their map licensing partner.

To fully understand it let’s get back in time for a second and have a look at the first wave of digital map provider acquisition in 2007-2008.

The first offer by TomTom for Tele Atlas was €2 billion, but then Garmin offered €2.3 billion for the Belgium map company. This higher bid was followed by a counter-offer from TomTom at €2.9 billion valuation.

But Garmin was clearly not interested in Tele Atlas. They pursued other goals in bidding for the European map company. The first reason was to make life a bit more difficult for TomTom, their top competitor at the time. As a result TomTom overpaid Tele Atlas by 900 million due to the Garmin bid, this strained their investment capacity for many years, creating a clear advantage to Garmin.

Continued…

Insurance Telematics Startup DriveFactor Acquired for $22M

Usage Based Insurance (UBI) technology provider DriveFactor, Inc., was acquired by an undisclosed strategic buyer for approximately $22 million.

The company created join 2010 and based in Richmond, Virginia, was providing the tools enabling UBI via a smartphone app. Customers of DriveFactor included Direct Auto (US), Tower Insurance (New Zealand), Bell Car Insurance (Admiral Group – UK).

Investors in DriveFactor included Safeguard (41% ownership) and QED Investors. Safeguard indicated in a press release that the sale is representing an approximate 2x cash-on-cash return.

Cellular Location Data Analytics: AirSage Acquires Decell

AirSage, a U.S. based company using wireless signal data for population analytics has acquired Israeli based Decell Technologies, a company that provides real-time, historical and predictive road-traffic information as well as advanced analytics solutions using cellular and GPS floating car data.

Financial details of the transaction were not made public.

Although the two companies analyze cellular location data, their technologies and geographical reach are very much complementary. AirSage’s technology mostly enables the identification of population movement and demographic characteristics along wide nationwide coverage, while Decell’s technology combines cellular and GPS signals and focuses on vehicle movement along the roads.

AirSage works uniquely in the United States where it has contracts with two major wireless operators powering together 100 million cellular devices. Decell, based in Israel with local customers also operates in Europe (read here), South America and Southeast Asia.

“AirSage has had a long history in the transportation arena. The acquisition of Decell will allow us to provide further value in the U.S. and abroad. Decell’s expertise in travel time and speed data rounds out the AirSage product portfolio,” states Cy Smith, Founder and CEO of AirSage. “We have had a long-standing, positive relationship with Decell and are thrilled to formally align their technology, intellectual property and industry expertise with ours.”

BrickHouse Security Acquires Securus GPS and Zoombak Brand

BrickHouse Security, a supplier of GPS tracking and security solutions, announced that it has acquired substantially all the assets of Securus, Inc.’s GPS tracking business, including the eZoom and Zoombak customer base and related brands.

“Securus and Zoombak built a robust customer base and a loyal following of GPS subscribers. With this single acquisition we are rolling up the efforts of the three most successful personal and asset tracking businesses under one brand on a single, unified platform,” said BrickHouse Security CEO Todd Morris.

Securus, created in 2008 was in its early stage focussing on pet tracking. In February 2011 it acquired Zoombak (read here), a general purpose GPS tracker from Liberty media (in 2012 GPS Business News interviewed with Chris Newton, CEO of Securus GPS – see here).

BrickHouse Security plans to support a select number of Securus and Zoombak’s retail distribution channels, such as Amazon, Costco, Car Toys and Pep Boys. Select retailers will also have the opportunity to offer BrickHouse’s wide selection of safety and security products to their customers.

Brickhouse said it provides security solutions to over 40,000 small businesses, over 2,500 law enforcement agencies and over 500,000 families.The company is headquartered in New York City and also has offices in Indianapolis.

Google Settles Litigation with Skyhook Wireless over Wi-Fi Technology

Google has recently settled with Skyhook Wireless its 5 years old dispute over patents on Wi-Fi location and “interference with business relations,“ we learned. The financial terms of the settlement was not disclosed.

This business and IP litigation started in 2010 when Skyhook sued Google (read our story here) after Android licensees Motorola and Samsung were forced to used Google technology instead of Skyhook’s which had signed deals with the two companies. Another complaint was filed by Skyhook in 2012.

In its 2010 lawsuit Skyhook explained the following “In 2005, Google expressed interest in licensing Skyhook’s XPS technology. In2007, after the expiration of an evaluation license between the parties, Google asked Skyhook to provide Google with data from Skyhook’s confidential and proprietary database of known Wi-Fiaccess points. Growing skeptical of Google’s motives, Skyhook declined to provide this highlyconfidential information to Google. Ultimately, Google elected not to license Skyhook’stechnology for commercial use. Instead, shortly thereafter Google began offering Google Location Service in competition with Skyhook’s XPS positioning system.“

Later on, while Skyhook had signed a contract with Motorola where the device maker was to use Skyhook XPS technology, but shortly after the deal was publicly announced (April 2010) Google forced Motorola to used its own geo-location technology threatening its licensee to not give them access to the Android App Store.

“Andy Rubin (Google’s VicePresident of Engineering overseeing development of Android) called Sanjay Jha (Co-Chief Executive Officer of Motorola, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer of Motorola’s Mobile Devicesbusiness) multiple times to impose a "stop ship" order on Motorola preventing Motorola fromshipping Android wireless devices featuring Skyhook’s XPS client software.

As one means of cloaking its improper "stop ship" order with an air of legitimacy,Google unreasonably and without justification claimed that embedding Skyhook’s XPS client software in the Android wireless devices would render the devices no longer Android compatible,“ Skyhook explained to the court.

In July 2010 the exact same problem happened with Samsung. The Korean phone maker had signed a deal with Skyhook but Google – this time pushed by Motorola which saw a competitive problem in Samsung using Skyhook – forced them to drop the technology, and Samsung continued the launch of its Android device with Google Location Service.

Obviously being barred from shipping on Android smartphones did cost millions of dollars in revenue to Skyhook Wireless and also banned them to access tens of millions phones to further improve their database with crowdsourced data.

Documents exposed during the litigation also demonstrated with tangible facts (most notably emails from Google executives) that the Android platform was not “open“, but a vector to Google services, excluding the competition to be pre-installed on such smartphones.

Skyhook Wireless was finally acquired by TruePosition, (a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media) in February 2014 (read here). Nowadays Skyhook is looking for growth in “context“ data, rather than location per se. The company is indeed leveraging its treasure trove of location data to build a contextual layer around it and sell it to mobile advertising companies.

Mapping & Navigation Platform deCarta Acquired by Uber

Independent LBS and mapping platform vendor deCarta has been acquired by ride-hailing service Uber, the acquiring part confirmed.

deCarta currently has 40 to 50 employees, its cloud-based technology includes map display, local search and turn-by-turn navigation.

Born in 1996 and based in San Jose, California, deCarta has powered over the years mapping systems of key companies, including Google – which in the early days of Google Maps used deCarta’s drill down server (DDS) technology. Other customers of deCarta include GM OnStar, Blackberry and Samsung, or application developers such as Motion-X and a number of fleet management systems.

After powering a number of mapping websites (early 2000), then mobile applications (TeleNav, TCS) in the late 2000, in the most recent years deCarta turned to the automotive market for growth, facing the strong competition of Google and more recently Apple in the mobile sector.

The problem faced by deCarta over the years was that their services were ultimately in-sourced by its customers when they reached a certain size.

In the case of Uber there is certainly the willingness to acquire this mapping technology and geospatial experience without reinventing the wheel. As the launch of Apple Maps a couple of years ago demonstrated, having a good map service is not as easy as it sounds.

With deCarta Uber will be able to cease to rely on Google and Apple map platform in its Android and iOS applications. Geo-location of drivers and passengers being at the center of its service this acquisition makes a lot of sense.

It will be interesting to see which map provider, i.e. TomTom, Here or even Openstreetmap is selected – deCarta has always been map agnostic even if in the recent years it worked more closely with TomTom, the Dutch company reselling their LBS platform to partners.

In addition to that the ambitions of Uber are clearly going beyond its current taxi service with humans at the wheel. As they are looking at the automated car, a strong geospatial know-how is certainly a good add-on to the technology mix.