With Fresh Funding, dataPlor Expands to Map the World
dataPlor was founded in 2016 with a mission to map the businesses of the developing world. But before it could extend its reach across oceans, the company focused for years on just one country, Mexico. Now, with the help of expanded seed funding it announced just this morning, the startup is taking a technology-first approach to enrich its database, map vast territories, and accelerate growth.
The location intelligence startup initially hired as many as 100,000 people to hit the streets of Latin America and fill in the map with accurate data by physically going to storefronts and collecting information. But about 18 months ago, the company’s leaders realized that approach, while deep and precise, would not sufficiently scale to meet its ambitions. As a result, dataPlor adopted a data-rich approach, collecting as much information as possible from government databases and online sources and then verifying it through a mix of automated calls to stores and on-the-ground verification.
Now, a company that 18 months ago had mapped one national market has expanded to 15, and dataPlor has amassed $5 million in seed funding.
“Our principle at first was, ‘Let’s collect most of our data only in person — 80/20 in-person versus technology,’” said founder and CEO Geoff Michener. “We now completely flipped it to make it 90% tech, 10% human.”
The needs dataPlor fulfills
Advanced economies like the US tend to have detailed and relatively accurate business location databases. Businesses register with local governments and fill out profiles on listings services such as Google My Business and TripAdvisor so that other curious businesses have a good idea of where potential partners and competitors lie. Location intelligence providers such as Foursquare and SafeGraph help out, too.
That’s not the case for the dozens of countries serving billions of customers across Latin American, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region. dataPlor aims to fill in the gaps, using both algorithms and hired boots to map out developing regions.
dataPlor counts members of the Fortune 100 among its customers, including leaders in mapping, ride sharing, financial services, real estate, and CPG, Michener said. And it’s easy to see what they could gain from maps of businesses in developing countries — mobility companies need to know how to get people from Y to Z. CPGs need to know where potential retail outlets are. Convenience stores and retailers need to know where their competitors lie. dataPlor empowers all of them to explore new territory with an understanding of the local playing field.
How the tech works
Collecting data from across the Web instead of relying primarily on foot soldiers to fill out maps of emerging markets is faster but comes with the risk of a drop in precision. It was that risk that dataPlor needed to address when choosing to launch a technology-first approach to scale globally.
To remain precise at scale, dataPlor creates confidence scores for the data it collects and runs the data through machine learning algorithms in order to limit inconsistencies. Then, the company deploys an AI callbox it has developed to contact businesses in each of the countries in which it operates in the local language to verify its information. Finally, in what Michener calls the “last mile” of dataPlor’s process, the locals to whom dataPlor first turned to map Mexico go to physical businesses to make sure the company’s information is as accurate as possible.
“That’s three to four steps deeper than most other companies go,” Michener said.
dataPlor has 15 employees and hopes to hit 20 to 25 by year’s end. The startup will use the most recent funding to fuel its expansion as it pursues deeper penetration into Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.
The company is especially focused on Asia-Pacific, where investor Singtel Innov8 is based. Michener said the closer relationship with Singtel will boost dataPlor’s efforts as it seeks to understand individual Asia-Pacific markets and partner with companies in the region.