Apple acquires Locationary, a Toronto startup, to help with troubled Maps app

Apple acquires Locationary, a Toronto startup, to help with troubled Maps app

Mashoka Maimona | 13/07/19 | Last Updated: 13/07/19 3:51 PM ET
Apple has scooped up nascent Toronto-based startup Locationary in a deal that could help the tech giant fine-tune its widely-panned mobile mapping service. Launched in late 2010, Locationary aggregates accurate, up-to-date information from users to create a synchronized database of local businesses, or an encyclopedia of what venues are open in the area, along with extraneous details such as opening times. An Apple spokeswoman confirmed an earlier report of the deal to the Financial Post on Friday, but would not disclose how much it paid for the startup or any additional terms of the deal.“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” the spokeswoman said.

Locationary may give Apple the boost it needs on the mapping front by helping it harness more accurate data for its own iOS app and OS X. Users criticized the tech giant after it made the well-publicized switch from Google Maps to its own Maps system last year.

“Apple badly needs help with its Maps products, the ugly duckling of its products lineup. Locationary in theory will help augment its Maps product, which is still in the early stages,” Kevin Restivo, senior mobility analyst at IDC Canada, said. ”Apple is rapidly trying to build up the functionality of its products. One way of doing so is through acquisition.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook had to intervene to issue an apology and temper the resulting outcry over the lacklustre iOS6 mapping service last September.

Mr. Restivo called the deal a “smart acquisition” given the flaws in Apple’s Maps product, particularly outdated information. By creating incentives for its users, business listings are kept both geographically and temporally accurate in Locationary’s ”unique” federated data exchange platform called Saturn. Users can conveniently check opening hours and Wi-Fi access through its digital map platform.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to creating a great map product. It’s no simple exercise,” he said about Apple tackling its Achilles Heel in a race to create the most consumer-friendly mobile mapping application.

The Cupertino-based corporation is turning to its users to improve its homegrown Maps platform by leveraging Locationary’s crowdsourcing efforts, “a popular method of quickly aggregating information,” to keep up with its rivals, he added.

“It allows Apple to have more of a relationship with its users — to know more about them. People may not feel comfortable with that, but it’s the byproduct of having people use maps.”

While this deal echoes Apple’s past acquisitions — rarely high-profile purchases — the potential navigational tie-in with one of its more prominent procurements Siri, the personal assistant application, is significant, Mr. Restivo said.

“The possibilities with Siri are endless. There will be a day when we can speak into our iPhones — assuming we have one — and Siri will guide us to the places where we need to be. Google is closer to that vision right now than Apple is.”

Rival Google doled out US$1.3-billion to snap up Israeli social traffic-mapping and navigation company Waze in June, a sum that has prompted the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the hefty acquisition.

Locationary, which is run by founder Grant Ritchie, has bagged $2.5-million in funding to date, according to the firm’s CrunchBase profile.

The announcement speaks to the bursting local startup ecosystem, said Matt Golden of Golden Venture Partners, a mobile-based early stage venture capital fund in Toronto.

“Apple just bought a company in Toronto — it’s a great reflection of the emerging technology ecosystem, immense talent, and exciting companies that are growing here,” Mr. Golden said. “Google acquires here, Apple acquires here, Zynga acquires here, and Facebook acquires here. The next major companies can be grown here, and are in the process of being grown here.”

Mr. Cook revealed earlier this year that his company acquired nine companies since October 2012 to this May. But only two of those acquisitions have been publicly disclosed: the other being WiFiSLAM, an indoor maps-based startup, for a reported $20-million in March.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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