NewsBusiness

A Decentralized Google Maps? Solana-Based Hivemapper Raises $18M to Build It

Hivemapper rewards users with tokens for passively capturing mapping data with dashcams in a model inspired by Helium.

5 min read
Hivemapper's dashcam lets users earn crypto token rewards. Image: Hivemapper

In brief

  • Hivemapper, a decentralized digital mapping network, has raised a $18M Series A.
  • The network rewards users with Solana-based crypto tokens for capturing dashcam data.

The digital mapping industry is dominated by centralized giants like Google, TomTom, and Apple, but blockchain startup Hivemapper sees significant potential in a decentralized, open-source alternative that is built by a wide network of users.

Today, Hivemapper announced a $18 million Series A funding round to bring its vision to life. The round was led by Multicoin Capital and featured a number of additional participants, including Solana Ventures, Craft Ventures, Shine Capital, and 75 & Sunny Ventures.

Angel investors in the round include Nova Labs (formerly Helium Inc.) founder and CEO Amir Haleem, Solana Labs co-founders Anatoly Yakavenko and Raj Gokal,, Masterclass founder and CEO David Rogier, former Tinder CEO Elie Seidman, and former Apple Maps executive Jaron Waldman. Haleem will join Hivemapper’s board of directors as part of the raise.

Hivemapper is a decentralized mapping service that uses dashboard-mounted cameras on contributors’ cars and incentivizes users to drive around and record their surroundings. The network is built on the Solana blockchain, and users are rewarded with HONEY crypto tokens for their automatic contributions to the overall map.

Hivemapper co-founder and CEO Ariel Seidman was Yahoo’s director of product management on Yahoo Maps in the late aughts when Google surged into the pole position in the mapping space. “Google kicked our ass,” Seidman told Decrypt, “and kudos to them.”

But he realized at the time that only well-funded, centralized juggernauts could hope to compete going forward, given the expensive and time-consuming task of constantly updating high-quality digital maps. Yahoo couldn’t keep up. Could anyone else?

“I thought to myself: Geez, if it costs billions upon billions of dollars to build out a global map, really it will only be the domain of like one or two big tech companies, or one or two very wealthy governments,” Seidman told Decrypt. “That didn't sit well with me.”

Seidman later founded a company called Gigwalk that crowdsourced data, but he still hoped to create a truly decentralized alternative to the mapping giants of the world. Hivemapper was originally founded in 2015 around the idea of using flying drones to create maps, but it wasn’t a very scalable model—and the firm was directly paying people to help build maps.

After meeting Haleem, the Helium co-founder, Seidman shifted course to a decentralized model using dashcams and fueled by crypto token rewards. Helium is a decentralized wireless network that pays users in HNT tokens for sharing their home Wi-Fi signal via custom miners/nodes, enabling access by Internet of Things (IoT) devices like sensors and trackers.

Similarly, the upcoming Hivemapper Dashcam—which will sell for $449 and ship starting in July—will automatically reward users with HONEY tokens for capturing footage, which is automatically added to the overall mapping service. The Dashcam actually uses Helium’s network of nearly 700,000 wireless nodes (and growing) to authenticate vehicle location.

Because Hivemapper is built around a distributed network of contributors, it won’t have the cost overhead of camera-mounted mapping vehicles and paying employees to drive them around. The network can put bounties on areas that need updated imagery, thus providing even greater rewards to active users who aren’t just passively recording amid their daily routines.

When building the network that powers Hivemapper and the HONEY rewards, Seidman said that he considered Ethereum, the leading smart contract blockchain network. However, while Ethereum may eventually overcome its scaling issues, he said that Solana offers the cost savings and transaction throughput that the service needs right now.

“We want to be able to cost effectively register that information or that transaction on the blockchain,” he said. “Taking a bet that Ethereum could figure it out in the timeframe that we needed it to was just too big of a risk, quite frankly.”

Hivemapper’s community-built, open-source map could have a wide array of uses, ranging from logistics to turn-by-turn navigation, gaming, and beyond. It seeks to provide an alternative to the services provided by tech giants, and reward users for building that map all the while.

Seidman said that Hivemapper will develop different types of mapping APIs to serve various industries over time, and work to meet the various use cases of industries that currently tap into Google Maps and other services for their needs. Eventually, Hivemapper aims to open up production of the dashcam miner hardware to other firms, as well.

Currently, Hivemapper has contributors building maps in nine metro areas, including Los Angeles, where hundreds of users passively update approximately 30% of the area map on a monthly basis. Hivemapper will use its Series A funds to fuel this summer’s mainnet launch, build dashcam hardware, and bring on more core contributors as it scales.

Going global is sure to be a significant undertaking, but Helium is actually the ideal case study, as it grew from 14,000 nodes to more than 500,000 in 2021 alone—and continues growing at a rapid pace. Hivemapper hopes that a similar token incentive model can propel its decentralized mapping network in much the same way.

Stay on top of crypto news, get daily updates in your inbox.