Felt, Thinking In Maps, And A New Collaborative Layer for Apps

Aaref Hilaly
Aug 10 · 3 min read

by Aaref Hilaly, Bain Capital Ventures

Once you start looking for maps, you see them everywhere. Today, it’s often maps tracking the spread of disease or wildfires. But beyond that, maps are central to many industries: real estate listings, retail locations, supply chain and logistics, energy exploration, conservation efforts, government services — anything where location-based data drives decision-making.

Climate change is making those decisions harder. Mapping used to be a “once and you’re done” activity; now maps are constantly evolving as our physical environment changes because of rising temperatures and extreme weather.

Despite this, there’s no website where someone can easily create their own map. People use Google Maps and take screenshots, but these are static pixels with no underlying data structure, and very hard to update. Or if they are particularly brave, they could take a month-long training course to use a complex geospatial application, but no one has time for that.

Enter Felt: a simple, delightful, browser-first mapping app that lets its users think in maps. With Felt, anyone can create a beautiful map within five minutes through pre-built templates and easy-to-access data sets, and then share it publicly or privately. Felt maps are dynamic, meaning that they’re powered by underlying data structures and not static images. By lowering the friction to creating real maps, Felt empowers non-experts — anyone from students to business executives to journalists to emergency workers can use Felt maps to make their point.

Felt + BCV

Today, Felt is announcing its $4.5M seed round led by BCV, with participation from our friends at Designer Fund, New Normal Fund (a BCV-backed seed manager) and a host of other impressive operators such as Dylan Field and John Lilly from Figma, Julia and Kevin Hartz from Eventbrite, Akshay Kothari from Notion, and Keval Desai from Canva. The product is available as a private beta; anyone interested in trying it out should sign up for early access at www.felt.com.

Our investment grew from a six year conversation with Felt founder/CEO Sam Hashemi, a talented designer-turned-entrepreneur. We first met Sam in 2015 when he stopped by with his co-founders to share plans for Remix, a transit planning app for local governments. Remix went on to its own successful exit last year, and we reconnected with Sam after he had left the company to brainstorm different ideas.

With Sam and Can on a rooftop in Oakland

Around that time, Sam teamed up with Can Duruk, a creative college friend and engineer who had been thinking along similar lines at Uber. As the idea took shape, we were thrilled they agreed to partner with us.

The Big Picture

We see Felt as part of a new generation of apps built from the ground up for collaboration. In the past it may have been enough to just add a “share button” as Google Docs did to Microsoft Office. Today’s users expect more, requiring every app to be rebuilt so that collaboration becomes a first-class citizen. Figma is the classic example in design, but this is a universal phenomenon sweeping across every category such as note taking (Notion, Roam), calendaring (Calendly, Clockwise), data science (Noteable, Prequel), presentations (Beautiful.ai, Pitch) and many others.

The common thread is simplicity from consumer-grade design and the ability to leverage advances in underlying technology. In Figma’s case, it was browser technologies like WebGL; in Felt’s, it’s the availability of mapping technologies from OpenStreetMap and recent open source libraries in infrastructure and mapping.

The result is not a straight, one-for-one replacement of legacy apps; instead, it’s a market expander. For example, by making design simple and collaborative, Figma has drawn many non-designers into the design process. By making it easy to create and share maps, Felt will similarly make map-makers out of many people who today do not even try.

We love this new, collaborative generation of apps and are excited to support Sam and Can from the earliest days of their journey.