Brainfood: Decisions

Sean Phelan, Multimap founder and chairman of the internet-based map provider

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

MY BEST ...

In the days of the internet boom, all the gurus and suits were trying to encourage us to throw our resources into our public Multimap website - the business-to-consumer (B2C) side of our business. When the bubble burst in 2000, a lot of consultants told us to pull out of B2C entirely and focus on business-to-business (B2B). My best decision was to trust my own judgment and that of my management team, and to continue to build both sides of the business.

The combination of our high-profile public website and the provision of professional online mapping services to businesses has been a good one for us. The Multimap.com website is our shop window for our fee-based services. It gives potential B2B clients a view of our capabilities.

If we'd just focused on B2C, I think we'd be smaller than we are now.

In addition, it would have been a real challenge to build a profitable business solely on the basis of advertising revenue for the public site. If we'd been completely reliant on that when internet ad revenues bottomed out about a year ago, it would have been a scary time.

MY WORST ...

I missed a couple of opportunities when I could have launched Multimap in the US. The first was in 1997, when MapQuest, AOL's online mapping site, was not yet established and nobody was doing in the US what we were doing in the UK. And then in 2002 there was a gap before Microsoft acquired the Vicinity mapping service. Both offered an opportunity to enter the market and we could have gone for it.

I've always been cautious about the US, because I feel that British business history is littered with hi-tech start-ups that go piling into America before they're ready - which ultimately proves to be a waste of management resources and of investors' money. We weren't going to make that mistake.

But companies like Google have demonstrated that with the right approach, it's possible to enter a market with apparently entrenched incumbents successfully. It would be nice to think that we could have achieved the same sort of market dominance in the US that we have in the UK, although we would have had to raise more money from investors first. We won't miss the next chance.

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