Multimap’s Founder Phelan on the Microsoft Acquisition

By Directions Staff

Following up on Wednesday's announcement that Microsoft is acquiring Multimap, we asked Multimap founder Sean Phelan to answer our questions.

Directions Magazine (DM): What's next?
Sean Phelan (SP): In the next week, we'll be in discussions with Microsoft about the integration plan going forwards, while day-to-day business continues as normal. After Christmas, Jeff [Kelisky, CEO of Multimap] will continue to run the business while I take on a consultative role, reducing my workload to eight days a month, at least for the first three months. Beyond that, we'll see! I'm keen to continue to help in any way that I can, of course, and am really excited about the future of online mapping and navigation!

Outside Multimap and Virtual Earth, I'm becoming increasing interested in and committed to green and low-carbon technology. I've made one investment in a carbon offsetting company, and the UK is a great place for wind and tidal power projects and research. Also, I'm also planning to spend more time on the pursuit that helped me develop the original concept of Multimap - Sailing!!

DM: How will Multimap's offerings be integrated into Microsoft? Will this mean that their website and data will be replaced by Virtual Earth?

SP: is a household name here in the UK and viewed as a useful, trusted friend by more than 10 million people globally, (according to our own internal measures of unique users). Part of the rationale behind the acquisition was the value of the brand and there are no plans for it to be replaced by Virtual Earth. Initially, it'll be business as usual but clearly, once we've determined the full integration plan, we'll be in a position to enhance both our public website and our suite of business offerings with Virtual Earth and other Microsoft services. Whatever exact form this takes, we are confident that the transition will be seamless and the effects enormously positive.

DM: Can you speak to how long the talks have gone on? When/where did the conversation begin?

SP: While we'd love to give the Location Intelligence events credit for bringing the two companies together, we can't really talk about any of the details of the discussions.

Editor's Note: According to a report in Red Herring yesterday: "Twelve-year-old Multimap, whose web site attracts more than 10 million unique visitors, began seeking new investors for a capital restructuring about nine months ago when Microsoft came calling."

DM: Do you have a sense if it's the technology, data or the patents (see patent coverage from 2002 at GIS Monitor) that are of most interest to Microsoft? What do you think has the most value for MS?

SP: We believe Microsoft was interested in the complete Multimap package. The acquisition gives Microsoft 120 Multimappers all of whom live, breathe and eat online maps. Microsoft is gaining access to a very talented team of people, with excellent skills, solid relationships in the mapping sector, and a real passion for what they do. In addition, the Multimap brand has a lot of positive value in the UK in particular, as well as in Europe and Australasia, in both B2B and B2C. Our understanding is that Microsoft wishes to keep the brand going and build upon it. Another major factor behind the acquisition was Multimap's local expertise in the highly complex spatial world. You're only deemed a success in a local market if your local market perceives your services as very good, and very local. Maps of Malaysia, for example, must have the look and feel that local users are familiar with, which is why we partnered with a local player for that content. Multimap works with close to 40 different map and local data providers around the world to achieve this high level of localization and this is also an important factor behind the sale.

DM: This acquisition is not like that of GeoTango or Vexcel where MS had not similar technology. It's perhaps more like the acquisition of Vicinity/MapBlast back in the day. Those names are no longer with us. Do you think the Multimap name will stay around?

SP: As noted above, our understanding is that Microsoft values the Multimap brand, and intends to keep it going and help to build it for both B2B and B2C.

Published Friday, December 14th, 2007

Written by Directions Staff

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