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MapBox buys Belarus' MapData, opening R&D center in Minsk

An American location data platform for mobile and web applications Mapbox is planning to open an office in Minsk on the platform of MapData.

A week after attracting investments of $164 million, an American start-up developing online maps Mapbox made its first acquisition, according to TechCrunch. This is the Belarusian company MapData - a start-up from Minsk specializing in the same area with the use of neural network technology.

Mapbox has over 300 million customers all over the world and the office in Minsk will be developing technologies for creating self-driving cars.

The company’s final aim is to create a complete self-driving car.

The MapData team will help in developing a new product for Americans, which is planned to be launched in the first quarter of 2018 - navigation maps with augmented reality for smartphones and other mobile devices. They will work with the help of front camera video devices. Use of such cards is convenient for drivers in the first place, explained the head of Mapbox Eric Gundersen. Pedestrians, most likely, won't find it easy to keep the smartphone in front of them all the time.

The developers of the startup are planning to create universal decisions which won’t be limited to specific car makes. The employees of the company will be testing decisions on ready cars in different conditions. In the future, car manufacturers will be able to get MapBox functions for money.

The head of the Minsk MapBox office, Alexander Matveenko, commented on the plans of the company.

“We do not develop our own cars. However, we are interested in creating SDK (software development kit) to determine objects. Our aim is to quickly determine all the road images necessary for self-driving cars”.

Yury Melnichek, whose starup was bought by Google not so long ago, became a consultant of the company. The office in Minsk is planning to employ more people, so that the work on the company’s projects is more efficient.

At the moment the company has four developers, and their number is planned to be increased up to 20.

“If the company employs the necessary number of developers in the time I am hoping to do it, the first results will be seen in 2 or 3 months’ time”, says Alexander Matveenko.

He also added that despite being a start-up company, its financial base is very stable, so everything should go well.

It is also necessary to mention that MapBox is pretty sure in Minsk as in a perfect place for opening their office. The founder of MapBox Eric Gundersen is constantly following the IT market of Belarus, its progress and developments in the sector.

Mapbox was founded in 2010 as a company to create personalized maps for various sites and mobile applications. In 2013, it received 10 million investments from Foundry Group, in 2015 $53 million, mainly from DFJ Growth. In 2017, another 164 million were added from Softbank and several other companies. Now Mapbox is going to open its office in Minsk, becoming a resident of the High-Tech Park.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Yury Melnicek, a Belarusian entrepreneur and investor, is an adviser to Mapbox and brought both companies together. The head of MapData is Alexander Matveenko, who will now head the Belarus office of Mapbox. He previously worked in other Melnichek's project Maps.me.

Photo: mapbox.com 

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