Snap has acquired Pixel8earth, a 3D mapping developer, for $7.6M – TechCrunch

by Joseph K. Clark

Last week, when we reported that Snap paid $124 million for Fit Analytics, we also noted that, according to the SEC filing that disclosed the value of the acquisition, Snap made another deal in the same quarter for a smaller amount, $7.6 million. We’ve now learned that the purchase was: Snap has confirmed that it has acquired Pixel8earth, a company developing 3D mapping technology based explicitly on crowdsourced data.

Pixel8earth is based out of Boulder, Colorado, and four employees from the startup are joining Snap to work on map product development. Specifically, they will build tools that work with Snap’s location-based augmented reality experiences and the Local Lenses that Snapchat introduced last June at its annual Partner Summit developer event.

It’s not clear if Snap (or Snapchat) will keep Pixel8earth going or roll selected technology and further development into products like Snap Map, but given the deal’s price, it’s most likely more talent acquisition. As reported, we’ve heard that this year’s Partner Summit will probably see some launches related to Snap’s broader e-commerce strategy. We now understand that it will also feature some news on the AR mapping front.

For the record, Pixel8earth — co-founded by Sean Gorman and Pramukta Kumar, two repeat founders and mapping PhDs — had built a platform where it encouraged people (dubbed “ambassadors”) to join the forum and use their 360 cameras and other cameras to record and contribute information to the startup’s global mapping database. (In that regard, the tech was not unlike what Mapillary, acquired by Facebook, had developed.)


Snap has been building its mapping experiences around using maps to increase and improve user engagement. One of the bigger deals it’s made on that front was its acquisition in 2017 of Paris-based startup Zenly, an app that lets you opt-in to be discovered by your friends on a map. Other mapping acquisitions have included StreetCred, announced in January of this year. StreetCred’s service was shut down after the deal. Still, it was also based on crowdsourcing points of interest and other mapping data, paying contributors in crypto tokens, and putting the information “on the blockchain.”

Snap’s mapping efforts already have some decent traction and differentiation as a more “personalized” map — in contrast with, for example, the very much used Google Maps experience, which is about universal accuracy and being as thorough as possible, not precisely personalized (unless you are logged in and have locations saved, but even so, not with powerful social features in mind).

In February, Snap noted that Snap Map was used by more than 250 million Snapchatters monthly on its investor day. “On other platforms, everyone sees the same Map. But on Snapchat, we are building the world’s most personal Map,” Jacob Andreou, VP of product, said there. “Your Snap Map reflects your world; it features the people, places, and activities you care about, and no two are the same. The Map is built to see where your friends are and what they’re up to quickly and easily. This kind of sharing is at its best with close friends, a perfect fit for the best friends network unique to Snapchat. Today’s version of the Map in our app has been relentlessly improved in conversation with our community over the last two years leveraging this data-informed approach.”

While some of that usage and growth will have inevitably been curtailed in the last year, given the pandemic-enforced lockdowns and reduction in travel, Evan Spiegel, Snap’s CEO, and co-founder, also said last week in its earnings that this might be turning a corner.

“We are optimistic about the engagement trends we are seeing as the world is beginning to open up,” he said. “As things began to open up in the United States in late February, we saw inflection points in key behaviors like Story posting and engagement with the Map.” And while engagement is something Snap has developed, monetization might well be on the cards, too.

“Local, digital advertising is an established market – it has a playbook, and we’re confident that this will be an important part of our business in the future,” said Peter Sellis, senior director of product, at its recent investor day. “But we want to do it right.”

Pixel8earth could indicate how Snap and its flagship app, Snapchat, plan to do that. The company has slowly been testing more commercial features like Promote Local Place to boost smaller businesses, specifically retailers, which was the first time Snap had put firms on the Snap Map. “We’re going to spend a lot of time expanding these products to work for the largest multi-location enterprises in 2021,” he continued, “but they were honestly reactive to the pandemic, and we feel that we have yet to build on the potential of the Map truly.”

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