Brad Feld

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Building An Autonomous and Virtual World: Softbank Teams With Mapbox

Oct 10, 2017
Category Investments

The physical world will be the reference coordinates for the fleets of robot cars of our imagination. We’re living through the transformation from digital to virtual, and Softbank leading today’s investment of $164 million in Mapbox accelerates this even faster.

I’ve posted about the massive founder crush my partners and I have on Eric Gundersen, the CEO of Mapbox. When we led Eric’s first financing — a $10 million round and the first capital into the bootstrapped team — we believed mobile location and mapping would be big. Four years later to the week, our vision is dwarfed by the reality that location is at the heart of everything from ride-sharing and autonomous driving, to IoT and AR/VR. We are excited to again participate in this round.

It is no surprise that Eric and Masa both have this bold vision. Both share an exceptional way of dreaming and executing. I remember Eric showing me the maps from his time with the World Bank and UN. There was no AR or autonomous back when he was in Afghanistan, but there was a need for location data and a better mapping platform. In the years since, with massive customer launches like Snapchat and the Weather Channel, the horizontal scale of Mapbox’s platform is now much more obvious.

Knowing Eric and the team, this idealistic passion will not only scale as a company grows, it will set the trajectory for building a product and a company that changes how we experience the world. When I asked Eric a couple years ago about how far he wants to take this he responded:

“It simply would be a mistake to stop building right now — it’s too early. We’re going to be inside of everything.”

We’re long on the team at Mapbox, and it’s obvious to me why Softbank is also enthusiastic. I’m very loyal to my friends at Softbank and love any opportunity to work with them. Back in 1997, Softbank Technology Ventures (which became Mobius Venture Capital) was the first VC fund I helped raise. Ron Fisher, the Vice Chairman of Softbank, was responsible for watching over us, is one of my favorite people on the planet, and has been an incredible mentor to me.

This team and our world are at a unique moment in time. It’s is going to be incredible to watch Eric keep building.