By Melanie D.G. Kaplan 2015 Issue 4 Trajectory Magazine
Mapbox is one of Washington’s fastest-growing geospatial companies. This summer, the company closed on $52 million of venture capital backing and now has more than 100 employees, 30 of whom are based in D.C. But locating the Mapbox office isn’t easy. It sits in an alley north of Logan Circle on the backside of bustling 14th Street, where employees go for freshly brewed filter-drip coffees at Peregrine and local beer at Batch 13.
Inside the former auto shop, dozens of bicycles compete for space on wall hooks, bare bulbs hang from the ceiling, and Herman Miller chairs roll around the concrete floor, catching occasionally on a manhole cover. The office is uncannily quiet as workers communicate through GitHub and Slack, standing or sitting at desks and tapping away on MacBook Pros.
The five-year-old, open-source startup builds maps for developers, including Foursquare and Pinterest, and recently partnered with MapQuest in an effort to overhaul the navigation company’s branding and product. Although the commercial market primarily drives the company, the value of its proximity to the federal government is significant.
“We’re working with federal agencies that are tackling some of the toughest and most complex geo problems in the world, like NGA mapping West Africa’s Ebola epidemic in real time or the U.S. Geological Survey finding better ways to serve terabytes of open imagery data,” said Matt Irwin, Mapbox’s government and humanitarian lead. “It’s a ton of fun to have someone from the government approach you and say, ‘We’re trying to solve X.’ These are massively compelling problems.”
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