The Team Behind Harpoen Wants to Make Maps Social Through Mapiary

3 mins read
August 14, 2013

In March 2012, J.P Ellis, Agatha Simanjuntak-Ellis, and Ty Kroll launched an iPhone app called Harpoen which allows people to leave digital notes around town, viewable only from within the app. Two versions and one International award later, the trio is preparing a spinoff of Harpoen called Mapiary, a map service that lets people create custom maps for various purposes.

When we first wrote about Harpoen in 2012, we imagined being able to use it for scavenger hunts and the ability to leave notes would be useful for brands and media companies who wish to create some sort of a social experience for consumers. That very idea remains with Mapiary and with the addition of actual maps and clear points of interests, it may finally be realized.

The system that allows Harpoen users to virtually place notes around town and alert its users when nearby notes and particular notes of interests are discovered was considered to be applicable to more traditional map services. Now dubbed MapX, this system, which was built internally by the Harpoen team, is what powers Mapiary together with OpenStreetMap and MapBox.

Ellis sees a great potential in social maps especially in this age of mobile where nobody leaves their houses without carrying a mobile gadget. Currently maps don’t really tell a story and while it’s a good tool to find directions to places, he thinks that there is so much more that can be done with maps.

The short pitch for Mapiary is that “it’s the Pinterest for maps”, Ellis told DailySocial. He and his team believe that location and mapping are the next big frontier with a massive opportunity. “Right now you don’t have a lot of people doing maps and location because it’s very difficult but is that because Foursquare has poisoned the well?”

Foursquare in 2012 made only a couple of million dollars from its billions of data points despite having hundreds of partners through its API access and over a million of registered merchants. The company is in the red, needing more than $20 million just to run its operations thanks to having 160 employees between New York and San Francisco, although it has revealed that it has another card to play the revenue game. It’s also trying really hard to shed the image that it’s a company that gives away badges.

Spending two or three days in a foreign or unfamiliar city can be pretty boring if you don’t know anything about the place and often people want to have an experience different from what the popular suggestions are. In Mapiary you can create shareable and embeddable maps and fill them with relevant posts or points of interests to mark your journey and create unique traveling experiences for others to follow in your foot steps. Once maps are created and shared, others can follow and save the maps to be used in offline mode.

“We think that Mapiary will be interesting not just to individuals or consumers but also for brands”, said Ellis. “We’ve already received strong interests from a number of brands both locally and in the United States who wish to test out Mapiary”.

At this point, Mapiary, which is still in private beta, is already working with Lontar Foundation (one of Indonesia’s largest literary publishers), the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival, and the AyoVote campaign. The company expects to sign more partners as the product develops and to have a wide range of custom maps across many different kinds of interests for people to follow.

The service has yet to be optimized for mobile, which is very important for a mapping service. Ellis agrees that mobile is crucial and that it will be difficult to get people to use Mapiary without a mobile app but given its early stage, he wants to make sure that the engines are fully functional to begin with.

Aside from the co-founding trio, Ellis, Simanjuntak-Ellis, and Kroll, Mapiary has a board of advisors made up of Gary Schwartz of Impact Mobile who is also the company chairman, Ananda Siregar, owner of the Indonesian cinema chain blitz megaplex, Wolfgang Viragh, co-founder of Ensogo, and international lawyer Matt Richards. Working the engines are web developer and designer Pria Purnama, software developer Iqbal Nurhakim, and designer Christa Linggar of SOSJ Design Bureau, all of whom also worked on Harpoen.

So what is happening with Harpoen? Ellis said that the team is still discussing the fate of their inaugural app but signs are looking towards it heading into the sunset as it never really attracted enough number of users to be popular and financially viable. We will have more on Harpoen once the company has finalized its decision.

Mapiary has received a small seed-stage funding and is looking for further investment to deliver its launch product.


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