The Story Behind Maptia
Jonny Miller, Co-founder
What inspired Maptia?
We were 22-years-old, fresh from backpacking and hitchhiking around South America and Southeast Asia, and we thought that travel was quite probably the solution to most of the world’s problems. Well, not exactly — we had just graduated in geography, economics and philosophy, so we knew it wasn’t that simple — but we definitely thought that the world would be a happier and more understanding place if more people got out there and experienced it.
So we decided to build a map with everything a traveller could possibly need. Photographs, blogs, stories, flights, hostels, a way to talk to other travellers, volunteering opportunities, hiking paths, surf spots… you name it, we wanted to put it on the map.
How did you get started?
None of us had ever written a line of code. Nor had we studied at business school or had a formal job, and nor did we have any experience in design or marketing (heck, we barely knew what the term ‘startup’ meant). Our collective entrepreneurial experience was limited to a student travel magazine and a village recycling scheme that Dorothy insisted on organising when she was eight. Not sounding so promising, right? And then, out of nowhere, while couchsurfing with a Haitian prince in Buenos Aires (that’s another story), we heard about an experimental new business incubator run by the Chilean government.
Once back in England we spent days on the floors of our parents’ living rooms, sketching out ideas on large sheets of paper, and frantically trying to educate ourselves on what a startup was. Four weeks later, Dorothy had taught herself how to make an animated video, and we had cobbled together our best shot at the application video and pitch. We figured we had nothing to lose. Luckily Start-up Chile at least matched us when it came to blind optimism, and we got in. A far-flung government was indeed giving us $40,000 dollars (yes, that really was a no-strings-attached grant and we got 1-year work visas to boot). Santiago, here we come. So a little less than 1,000 days ago — along with Jianshi, an enthusiastic developer whom we had somehow convinced to join our team all the way from Japan — we landed in the middle of the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem, with over 200 other teams from more than 60 countries around the world. And when you put that many optimistic people in an office everything is exciting. Even accounting is exciting. Imagine the pandemonium when they started handing out free croissants. So apart from gaining a few pounds, we also gained a lot of knowledge from an incredible peer-to-peer mentoring network. And let’s face it, we needed it.
Dean wrote his first lines of code (he is now a full-stack developer and has so far written Maptia 2.0 in its entirety), Jonny started to learn the ropes of marketing and growing a community, and Dorothy started to close the gap between how we imagined Maptia and what it might actually look like. It was a humble beginning
P.S. We actually have written our top ten tips here: (after 1,000 days of building Maptia)