Hi @mogosselin – thanks for all the questions, we’ll take them one at a time below:
What were you originally studying into? Were you all traveling together to find a ‘purpose’? Were you all in the same program?
We originally met at the University in Durham in the UK – although Dorothy and Dean were both studying Physical Geography whilst Jonny was studying Philosophy and Economics. We bonded over our passion for travel and created a small student travel magazine together. I’m not sure that we would say that we travelled to find a ‘purpose’ but we were certainly all extremely curious about the world and eager to step outside of our own comfort zones and explore new places and cultures at any opportunity we had!
And, what made you want to create a startup? You didn’t want to get back to study something or get a more ‘traditional’ job?
At the time we weren’t really sure exactly what a startup was! But we knew for sure that we didn’t want to follow a traditional career path and jump on the conveyor belt into an uninspiring 9-5 desk-bound job. Instead, we agreed that we would rather fail at trying something we believed in, as opposed to being trapped in a job that didn’t excite us or have the potential to make a tangible impact in the world, however small.
What made you from traveling to hearing about a startup to actually doing it?
Our journey began after Dorothy and Dean’s chance couchsurfing encounter with a Haitian prince in Buenos Aires. That’s where we heard about the USD $40K equity-free grant offered by the Start Up Chile accelerator program. They also had an awesome community of entrepreneurs from all over the world and it was another chance for us to travel – we applied and against the odds were accepted straight out of university and with zero prior experience (we were definitely in at the deep end!)
And, some technical questions: What is it built on? What language / framework / etc.
Hi, Dean here, I’m the CTO at Maptia. Here’s a really quick rundown of what I have used. The backend is built in Ruby using the brilliant Padrino framework (like Rails but much more lightweight) and Datamapper as the ORM. We use PostgreSQL as a database and PostGIS alongside Rgeo to handle the indexing of our geospatial data. This is all deployed using Heroku and the awesome Unicorn server which means we can run 4 instances on one dyno.
The frontend is gigantic and uses hundreds of tools. I use Spine as a framework which I have augmented considerably then there’s jQuery, D3 (for the maps), Underscore, Skrollr…the list goes on. I write this all in Coffeescript and the css in Scss – both invaluable.
Since you learned all by yourself, what kind of technical problems did you encounter?
I have to give a big shout out to Jianshi Huang and especially Ken Keiter who pitched in and wrote backend code before I even knew what Ruby was and pointed me in the direction of most of the best tools that I still use today.
Did you have problems with deployments, testing on different devices, etc.
Deployment has never been a problem because Heroku does all of the heavy lifting for me. Its just a case of keeping your git repo clean and then one line of code will deploy to production. This is awesome because it means that during times of rapid change, like now after launch, I can deploy two or three times a day with updates.
With only a single developer* and given the sheer size of Maptia, we have to make some sacrifices when it comes to device support. We really focused on getting it working with chrome and safari and responding for mobile screens. I could spend years making internet explorer or windows phone behave properly but Maptia would never get finished. In the long run we are looking forward to building native mobile apps and making the most of what these technologies have to offer, especially for location based storytelling and discovery.
*Although, I have to thank Brian Jones for doing an awesome job on our external services. Thanks to him we have our very own Open Street Map server giving us open source geographical data for the entire planet whenever we need it. And our own Sendy instance for sending all of our emails.