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Startups get psychedelic and there's a FAANG fight for maps | Intent, 0011

The quest to end Google's geospatial dominance and a look toward the future of mind-altering startups

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The agenda ahead:

  • Can a combo of Meta, Amazon, & Microsoft take on Google Maps?

  • An update on psychedelic development within the tech and VC space

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Meta, Amazon, & Microsoft’s new group project to take on Google

Midjourney: google maps and apple maps having a fight --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

In December of 2022, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and Dutch mapping company TomTom announced the formation of the Overture Maps Foundation (a Linux Foundation project). Their aim: break up the dominance of Google Maps.

The group has since grown to include more than a dozen companies in the mapping and geospatial… space. Late last month, they released their first open map dataset. Let’s dive a little deeper into what that means, and what the future might hold for maptech.

Where are they headed?

Overture Maps Foundation isn’t looking to create its own mapping app, to be clear. Rather, it was established to “power current and next-generation map products by creating reliable, easy-to-use, and interoperable open map data.”

For apps with location-based features (think Uber, Lyft, Hotels.com — you get the picture), good mapping data is a must, and since most teams don’t have the resources to build their own, connecting to an existing API is the best option.

Right now, Google Maps is the only competitive option in the space. It’s estimated to be as large as an $11B business for Google (though other projections have it closer to $5B). It’s not only the most popular mapping API — it’s the 8th most popular API on the entire internet.

As an example of the cost to a single company, before negotiating a bespoke deal, Uber paid Google approximately $58M over three years for mapping services. Overture has seen the gap for something affordable and more interoperable, and has released their open dataset for developers for free.

But how does it compare to Google Maps?

What’s inside the map?

Overture Maps Foundation recently published a post outlining the details of the dataset, but let’s do a quick overview.

  • Overture’s dataset includes data on nearly 60 million points of interest worldwide, including restaurants, office buildings, monuments, etc. (compared to Google’s network of 200 million). The foundation uses a combination of openly available public information, crowdsourced data, and AI/ML techniques to continuously grow the dataset.

  • The “Buildings” layer includes more than 780 million building footprints across the world, fueled by a network of open data projects by partners like Esri and OpenStreetMap.

  • There’s a comprehensive Transportation layer of global road networks, with a linear reference system that supports developer-added data including speed limits, real-time traffic, and more.

  • The Administrative Boundaries dataset outlines national, regional, and municipal boundaries, with regional names in 40+ languages for international users and developers.

The mappings are built with the specific Overture Data Schema, designed to have intuitive rules around data storage and representation to enable engineers to do less work in parsing and building on top of the dataset.

Where do we go next?

This mapping infrastructure could potentially be a game-changer for developers looking to create location-based features or applications. Here’s a deep dive from Michelle Tan laying out why the founding enterprises themselves would be interested in creating this dataset.

As she points out, Amazon wants accurate location data for delivery route optimization, Meta wants business listings for targeted ads, and Microsoft has its own Bing Maps application.

Until now, OpenStreetMap has been the only real reliable open-source mapping dataset on the block, but they cap out at 30 million points of interest. Time will tell, but this could end up being a huge turning point, and could force Google’s hand to make major changes to their platform. The roadmap ahead is pretty limitless.

Other mapping startups

Speaking of expansion in the mapping space, keep your eye on these companies as new players enter the industry.

  • Felt ($19.5M raised) is a powerful, collaborative, browser-based mapping tool for architects, disaster response + utility efforts, and technologists, allowing teams to draw on top of maps, drop pins, leave notes, and trace boundaries.

  • BatchGeo (pre-seed) is a platform allowing developers to export spreadsheet data onto map locations with an easy-to-use interface based on postcodes and addresses.

  • Mapbox ($334.2M raised) is a location-based data platform, providing powerful routing engines and traffic-powered travel times to help developers build engaging navigation experiences.

  • Geopointe ($500K raised) is a Salesforce-integrated tool that helps sales teams add mapping data to their sales pipelines.

  • Maptitude by Caliper is a GIS and mapping software enabling teams to optimize sales territories, vehicle routes, site locations, and more.

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Hallucinogenics get the hot treatment

Midjourney: office of startup workers working on psychedelics for health and wellness --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

For the past few years, experts have been predicting an uptick in demand for what is formally classified as ​​”serotonergic hallucinogens,” or powerful psychoactive substances that alter perception and mood [think MDMA (molly, ecstasy), LSD (acid), and psilocybin (magic mushrooms)].

Investment hit the YTD peak for psychedelic stocks in July and August in the public markets, and the top 11 VC Investors in the space have deployed $139.8 million since 2020. With the emergence of mental health as a mainstream public concern since the pandemic, tech is catching up to see a potential solution in this space. Let’s explore.

Emerging startups:

Transcend Therapeutics came out of stealth in February with nearly $42M in funding, focusing on using methylone (or MDMC). It’s a compound resembling MDMA but shorter-acting, milder, with a quicker onset – a uniquely promising compound to treat PTSD.

Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals, with $68.6M in funding, claims to develop safer, more tolerable, more effective novel psychedelic compounds. They recently presented new findings on derivatives that promise more effective treatment of addiction, mood, and anxiety disorders.

One you might’ve heard of: Mindbloom, backed by Founders Fund, 8VC, and Kleiner Perkins to provide guided, at-home ketamine therapy for anxiety and depression.

Then there’s Lusaris Therapeutics, which raised $60M in November, and is using “serotonergic neuroplastogen therapeutics” to treat severe neuropsychiatric and neurological conditions – a.k.a. a fast-acting and rapidly clearing psychedelic for patients with treatment-resistant depression and other severe similar disorders.

In the IPO’d — Initial Psychedelic Offering? — market:

There are companies like atai Life Sciences – a publicly traded biotech company investing in synthetic or semi-synthetic psychedelic drug production within the US (which represents 50% of the world’s pharmaceutical market). They describe themselves as a drug development platform, and seek to acquire, incubate, and develop psychedelics and other drugs to be used to treat a range of mental health conditions.

Cybin, also public, does essentially the same thing – they focus on psychedelic-based therapeutics to address mental health (CYB003, a psilocybin used for the treatment of major depressive disorder, and CYB004, a DMT molecule for generalized anxiety disorder).

Some researchers fear that corporatization and patent filing for these big, fancy molecules could take the field in unsustainable directions – that the surging money in private spaces is luring scientists from academic institutions and philanthropic activities that have led the way for years.

In the adjacent tech space:

Journey Clinical – with $16M in funding — isn’t doing research of its own. Instead, they’re a platform providing services to member psychotherapy practices that are independently owned and operated. Enthea is a seed-stage venture betting on the legalization of psychedelic therapy in Oregon. They seek to provide access to psychedelic-assisted therapy as a workplace benefit, and host a platform where businesses can provide employees with coverage for these through workplace benefit plans.

What’s the point?

You might be asking, “Why go through all this trouble?” Well, there’s some rationale. Studies on MDMA found that the drug, paired with counseling, brought marked relief to patients with severe PTSD. Addiction, depression, and end-of-life mood disorders are among the areas with the most evidence of benefit from psilocybin.

At the end of June, the FDA released new draft guidance highlighting critical considerations for researchers interested in testing psychedelic treatments for various conditions. It outlined trial conduct, data collection, and safety precautions for researchers. This means a little bit of an easier path forward for researchers and companies trying to make waves.

If founders really want to employ the power of psychedelics to change lives, can they do it within regulatory and ethical constraints? The question of patents, the touchy topic of mental health, and the omnipresence of big pharma, hungry for M&A, could present a range of challenges. It’s likely they’ll use the roadmap set by the cannabis industry to pave a path forward, albeit both face the issue of still-thriving underground markets. Is there a good trip ahead for these seemingly too-good-to-be-true solutions? We’ll see.

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