Multimap’s Founder Phelan on the Microsoft Acquisition
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
SP: Multimap.com 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
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.