Maptia: storytelling of a world on the road [interview]
“Each place is made up of thousands stories and some of them are yours”. With this message opens up the world of Maptia, a platform whose mission is to create an “inspirational” map of the world. To do so, it relies on the stories of those who have traveled and experienced places, collected interesting stories or gave birth to their adventures in places far from home.
The strength of the online community launched in 2013 is the philosophy that unites the contributors (with a manifesto to subscribe), image quality (Show, don’t Tell is one of the tips suggested for a compelling storytelling) and the creation of a map of the world that actually combines style and usability in a unusual way if compared to the most popular “tips for travel” portals.
Jonny Miller, co-founder of Maptia with Dorothy Sanders and Dean Fischer (picture below), tells us about the genesis and the future scenarios of his creature.
Why did you decide to launch Maptia?
When the three of us were at Durham University in the UK, we struggled to find a beautiful and simple way to share stories from our travels. Whilst collecting articles for our student travel magazine we thought, wouldn’t this look better on a map? It wasn’t long before the somewhat crazy idea of building a giant, interactive collection of stories from every single place in the world was born!
Is there any kind of selection of the stories you publish?
Yes we’re focusing on curating thoughtful stories about places. We have been running a series of monthly storytelling themes which you can find on our blog here. They have ranged from ‘Culinary Adventures’ and ‘Urban Exploration‘ to ‘Adrenaline Seeking’ and ‘Wonders of the World’. More recently we have also been fortunate to work alongside a number of talented photojournalists and not-for-profits to help showcase their stories and shed light on corners of the world that aren’t usually mentioned in mainstream media.
What’s the long term goal of Maptia?
As we wrote in our launch post ‘Places are Made of a Thousand Stories’ – we believe that if people from every country, every culture, and every background came together to share the stories of their lives and their travels, then the world would be a more understanding and empathetic place. If thousands of cultures are going to harmoniously collide as the world shrinks into a single conversation held at the speed of light, then it is important that we say those things which bring us together. It is important that we paint the core pieces of our shared humanity so clearly, that we cannot help but recognise ourselves in every one of our remarkable human cultures.
England, Santiago de Chile, Seattle, and Taghazout in Morocco. where are you based now? Your nomadism is part of the project?
Our nomadism was never planned in the beginning, it has just happened spontaneously through a set of happy co-incidences. The startup adventure began when we were accepted into the Startup Chile incubator program in Santiago – then Techstars in Seattle – experiencing different parts of the world helps to give us a global perspective which I think is easy to lose sight of when you remain settled in the same location. At the the moment, we are based in the south of Switzerland – perhaps one day we will complete the seven summit startup challenge and work from every continent!
Is there any unexpected aspect of your business?
Lots – right from the outset we have benefited from serendipity. If someone had told us when we started out on the adventure that we would end up moving to Chile, Seattle, Morocco and Switzerland we never would have believed them! The other thing is that nothing can really prepare you for all the challenges that you meet along the way – in the first few weeks of the TechStars programme in Seattle, the tornado of advice from experienced mentors caused us to question almost everything we were doing. This process is affectionately known as ‘mentor whiplash’ among the TechStars founders. Despite working insane hours and pushing ourselves to ‘do more faster‘ (the TechStars mantra), we struggled to condense our ideas into an actionable format, and spent a lot of time attempting to follow all the advice we were given at the same time. Needless to say we ended up rather confused and lost our focus on building the product. We didn’t yet have the experience to have confidence in our own ideas.
Do you think storytelling is the future of the web?
For millennia, humans have relied on paintings, drawings, the spoken word, poetry, myths and legends to help define the world we live in, and to understand our relationship with the planet and all other living beings. So yes, I think that it is the past, present and future of humanity! The web is just allowing us to innovate on the medium and also democratising the tools that provide a voice to anyone that has a story to be shared.
Three keywords to describe Maptia
Global, storytelling, impact!