The Map and the Territory

pierre festal
Sep 29 · 2 min read
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Image for post
René Magritte: The Treachery of Images, oil on canvas 1929

A number of years ago, I read a book by French author Michel Houellebecq titled La Carte et le Territoire (the Map and the Territory), I was intrigued by the title which clearly referred to some kind of relationship between the two objects. Upon further investigation I learned about the map-territory relation describing the relationship between an object and the representation of that object. The expression was first coined by Polish American scholar Alfred Korzybski encapsulating the view that an abstraction derived from something is not the thing itself.

To me this is also one of the most interesting problems that technology has been tackling over the last few decades: building an accurate representation of planet Earth and developing capabilities enabling humans to navigate, understand and manage their physical environment. This effort started with the Space Race of the 1960’s as the US and Soviet governments competed to deploy satellites and communications systems into space. The best known and arguably most successful endeavour is the Global Positioning System (GPS), GPS quickly grew in popularity with the end of Selective Availability in 2000 allowing civilians to access more precise GPS data. This ushered in an explosion of innovative commercial ventures that are widely available and used across the globe. GPS is one of these seminal technologies that has generated trillions of dollars of economic value and some of the largest venture outcomes of the last decade (think Uber, Doordash, Snap, Niantic…). In fact it is such a successful technology that countries across the globe have been trying to build their own navigation and positioning system (Galileo in Europe and now a post-Brexit UK initiative).

As the space sector matures, resulting in lower vehicle launch, hardware and data acquisition costs, a similar revolution is brewing in the geospatial sector. Despite the billions of dollars invested in earth observation satellites and infrastructure over the last decade, growth has been limited by the early entrants’ vertically integrated strategy spanning data collection all the way down to developing industry specific applications. As the unbundling of this value chain happens, large application companies will emerge.

At Promus Ventures, we are big believers in companies that leverage this infrastructure to build vertical solutions in the geospatial sector. We are one of the early investors and believers in the space having backed companies such as Rocket Lab, ICEYE, Spire, Mapbox, Swift Navigation, Cape Analytics, Enview and Aurora Insight to name a few. We hope that ultimately this sector will generate venture outcomes comparable to that of the GPS. If you are an ambitious entrepreneur in the sector feel free to ping us!.

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