Welcome to our second Founder Interview with a Founded X startup. A few weeks ago we interviewed a FoundedX Curator – Nir Kouris who runs Founded In Israel. During the interview there was a question asking Nir what startups he was most excited about in Israel and before I could finish the question he was bigging these guys up! We decided to see for ourselves and so last week had the opportunity to do an interview with Mapme.
AF: How did it come about? Tell us a little of the founding story.
BL: Mapme is a platform that enables people to create community maps. It started as a side project for me when I was in the army here in Israel and I built MappedInIsrael just because I was interested to show off what it’s all about here in the Israel tech scene. Although it was just a fun side project, I continued to work on it and some friends joined me to help out to add a ton of new features. After a while people started reaching out saying “hey, can you build us a map” or “hey, can we do that? can you tell us how?”. It was just passionate people wanting to create a map for their own thing. Whether it be whiskey communities or even just people wanting to map their friends and family around the world. Basically any community that was built around places was wanting to use it for themselves and crowdsource information. So yeah, that’s how Mapme came about I guess. I finished the Army about 3 months ago and decided it was time to do my own thing.
AF: You’ve been involved in a few startups before Mapme. Can you tell us how thats helped shape you as a founder today?
BL: Yeah, I did. I worked for a few different startups before this. I worked for Wibiya, Kampyle and a VC firm -Lool. My role was always geared around marketing and I guess that’s what I became good at. I did develop technical skills in the army but I prefer the marketing aspect, gaining traction and so on.
AF: Can you tell us a little bit about how you are funded?
BL: We’re raising a round at the moment but until now we’ve been self-funded.
AF: Please explain your business model and tell us a little bit about your growth.
BL: We’re just not there yet. We’re only just getting started and its not long since the team was leaving their old roles. So right now we’re focused on getting the self-service platform live and then after that we’ll worry about revenue. We’re all about focusing on product just now. We have a ton ideas that we can experiment with when the time comes and we were able to try some of them with MappedInIsrael which was the first real active map.me community. When we’re ready we’ll look at doing the same for other map.me communities. To date we’ve had 600 requests to build maps and that number is growing steadily.
AF: You were previously enrolled in the IDF – Israel Defence Force. We’ve heard from Nir the effect the IDF has had on the Israeli startup scene. How has that experience helped you as a founder?
BL: Yes, it’s a great place to network. I would say that’s the best part of it. Lots of very smart people all working as a team. Once you finish the army a lot of people go back and hire there for developer or even cofounders. Of course it goes without saying, it really depends where you are in the army.
AF: What are your fears as a founder?
BL: Building the right team is definitely of high importance but I think I/we have done a really good job of that. After that there is definitely fear around your product. “Can I build a really good product that solves a problem”? It’s really hard, far harder than it seems.
AF: Can you give us insight into the daily routine within the team?
BL: I’m not big into too much structure – it’s just about making sure you’re getting stuff done. I tend to dump a ton of actions into Asana every day and then quickly prioritise them in order. Once a day the whole team gets together for a fairly short workshop primarily around product but it’s more just to ensure we’re all working off the same page. We try to keep them pretty short and not waste too much time. If people need to chat they can do so in our team slack.
AF: What’s the next big milestone?
BL: Right now we have like 600 requests for people to create maps. So we’re trying to get some Beta maps out there quickly and then after that releasing a self-service platform so those people can create maps on their own. The next big challenge after that is figuring out how to grow the individual maps themselves.
AF: What tools do the team use to work effectively?
BL: It’s very easy to have lots and lots of tools so we try to keep it simple. For team communication we use Slack and Asana. We’ve started using Mixpanel for our analytics on the product and we also use pocket as a way to save and share findings for the rest of the team.
AF: Tell us a little about the team.
BL: Currently the headcount stands at 6. We have 2 developers, a product/UX guy, a CTO, myself as the CEO and finally my co-founder who looks after the business, finance & legal end. You can read more about the team here.
AF: What is the coolest project you’ve seen on Mapme?
BL: It’s a little biased but definitely MappedInIsrael was very cool. Then again we haven’t released the self-service platform so I’m sure there are other contenders lining up to use the service. The 600 requests to build community maps come in all shapes and sizes and we’re super excited to see what these people use Mapme for.
Ben is certainly a young and confident founder that seems to have the backing from everyone that I’ve spoken to who knows him or knows of him. Talking to Ben confirmed all the hype about the Israeli tech scene that Nir had proudly spoken of a few weeks ago. Many thanks for your time Ben. The team at FoundedX watches on with interest.