This article and webinar is part of a new series in which Estonian citizens, residents and e-residents can offer each business advice based on their experiences, as well as the products and services that they offer. Along with the upcoming launch of a new community platform, the aim is to let everyone learn more about companies in our digital nation and help facilitate business between them.
Two years ago, a couple of American software developers encountered a problem.
Ian Wagner and Luke Seelenbinder had a client with a Google map integrated into their website to help Christians find churches around the world. It was only a side feature for a website that provided an audio library of free sermons, but it was incredibly useful for the client’s audience so it helped significantly more people discover the website.
Unfortunately, Google decided to change it’s pricing structure so that continued use of the embedded map would start costing the client about $700 per month.
“It was a cool feature so we didn’t want them to get rid of it but we also didn’t want them to pay the extra fee,” Wagner explains. “That’s when we figured out that we could use open map data to create an alternative solution, which also gave the client more control over the information displayed on their map.”
After working out the solution for this client, Wagner and Seelenbinder then established Stadia Maps in order to provide the same service on a larger scale for more companies. They were joined by a third friend Josh Goodwin and together they bootstrapped the startup and had their minimum viable product ready six months later.
Stadia Maps’ software is now used by a growing number of companies around the world for very diverse uses— including a Norwegian traffic camera database, a sports route planner, a student housing finder and the rather self-explanatory Campsites.co.uk. Their original client, SermonAudio.com, also still has its church finder working smoothly thanks to Stadia Maps.
Stadia Maps offers map tiles that can be customised and integrated into a website using open source software, as well as an API for route planning.
While developing these services, the e-residents realised that the potential demand is larger than they anticipated due to the number of companies that depend on an enterprise account with Google Maps or Mapbox if they use it for asset tracking. Stadia Maps grew by 400% in the last month alone, partly due to another price rise from Google.
“The problem is that the interests of Google are not always aligned with the interests of their users, as you can see with Google Maps,” argues Wagner. “They will show your competitors and include advertising if you are not using the premium service. We’ve kept our business model and pricing structure as simple as possible and if you can edit your own map to show just the information you want to show.”
As it happens, the e-Residency community platform that is currently being trialled also uses similar mapping software as its most popular feature as this enables e-residents to find and connect with each other from around the world.
Watch a StadiaMaps webinar
Ian Wagner and Luke Seelenbinder took part in a webinar with us at e-Residency to discuss their experience with e-Residency and how to use their mapping software.
Watch it here:
How they use e-Residency
Wagner first heard about Estonia’s e-Residency programme when Seelenbinder showed him a news story about it from “some geeky website”. They are now active members of the e-Residency community and have used the programme to establish multiple companies.
“It sounded cool so we signed up,” explains Ian. “Although we didn’t have a clue what to do with it at first. The idea of governments competing to offer the best services online really resonated with me, but I didn’t even know what those services were!”
Ian and Luke became friends at university and soon began working on software projects together. They went in separate directions abroad after graduating, but continued to work together online across borders. This is when they began encountering the added hassle of cross-border business and realised that their e-Residency provided the solution.
“E-Residency is cool because I can make a company that I can take anywhere in the world and it wouldn’t be tied to any location. I now live in Korea and Seelenbinder lives in Switzerland, but it’s incredibly complicated to register companies locally in both places. In contrast, a company set up through e-Residency can be managed anywhere with no paperwork.
Wagner points out that they like e-Residency because it’s hassle-free and that’s also part of the reason for the success of Stadia Maps.
“There are several alternative mapping services available, but almost all use price per thousand requests as their core pricing component. So if you get a lot of traffic suddenly, or don’t know how much people are using your map in advance, pricing can be unpredictable. We have a free tier and clear price points after that. If you don’t know how much you’ll use, just sign up. If you have a paid plan, we’ll reach out to you personally rather giving you a surprise bill if you exceed the limits. And we aren’t interested in tracking every little thing you do like Google.”
In addition to Stadia Maps, Wagner and Seelenbinder both set up their own companies through e-Residency for their individual programming work, as well as a third company for programming work that they collaborate on. They use 1Office for their business services and LHV for their business banking. Their third cofounder at Stadia Maps is also now becoming an e-resident.
Wagner and Seelenbinder also share a mutual love of languages. Since becoming an e-resident, Wagner has even started learning one of the world’s most challenging languages for English speakers: Estonian.
Although speaking Estonian is not necessary for e-residents, it has certainly earned him plenty of attention both from potential customers in Estonia and also the Estonian media who have featured him multiple times.
Wagner has also now began conducting business with Estonians and other e-residents. He is currently working on a project for Arzu Altinay, a Turkish e-resident who has previously been featured on the e-Residency blog for her company Walks in Europe.
In addition to joining Wagner and Seelenbinder’s webinar, you are welcome to join the trial of the new e-Residency platform where you can connect with them and other members of the e-resident community. This could help you grow your company by either learning more about the programme or making valuable connections, like they did.
Simply fill out this form to gain access.
If you haven’t done so already, you can also apply for e-Residency at e-resident.gov.ee.