Acquiree founder leaves Apple launches Photo Mapping Service to go where Streetview cant drive – @jesolem

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Kristina Persson

Kristina Persson

From our startup friends in Copenhagen comes a story by former Australian Department of Innovation Policy Officer Kristina Persson about a new startup from an entrepreneur who originally developed the software that does face recognition which sold to Apple in 2010. Kristina now lives in Sweden and writes for

Lack of capital tends to be a problem for young companies. Mapillary, has no such worries, the founder is Jan Erik Solem who sold his former company Polar Rose and the face-recognition technology (that can tell who is in a photo) to Apple for an undisclosed amount (rumored to be in the ballpark of €22M) back in Autumn 2010.


Jan Erik Solem, founder of Polar Rose, inventor, surfer dude and fixie enthousiast.

Jan Erik Solem, founder of Polar Rose, inventor, surfer dude and fixie enthousiast.

Erik Solem moved to California, but returned to Skåne earlier this year after finishing up his work there. He’s keeping quiet about his time with Apple, and after 9 years is ready to start something new. He’s keen to start spreading the word about his latest self-funded startup, Mapillary.

‘The idea is that all sorts of people to contribute pictures through crowdsourcing. That way you can build a database that also takes in bike paths, hiking trails, ski trails and all means including streets and environments in small towns where the likes of Google, Nokia or Eniro can not go’, says Jan Erik Solem, formerly of Polar Rose, founder of Mapillary.

Mapillary is a network service that will be able to fill in the gaps in Google Street View or other similar image features linked to maps on the web. He says it’s an idea for a simpler and cheaper version of Street View he’s had for a long time.

‘Google spends enormous money to go around with their specially rigged cars with cameras on the roof and the quality of their pictures is very good. But they are only updated once every four years and there are very many places they’d never image because the cars do not come forward,’– says Jan Erik Solem to Sydsvenskan

He is convinced that additional images can be good business. For ordinary consumers, the service should be free. But there are plenty of commercial entities that may be interested in the contents of the database. An important step in the development of Mapillary is to attract app developers to use the service.

‘A major point is that people can make something more of all the collected data, perhaps an app over the top jogging tracks in Malmö, for example, says Jan Erik Solem.



Mapillary was launched in September and has spent some time in the Minc incubator office in Malmö. Jan Erik Solem and two colleagues Yubin Kuang and Johan Gyllenspetz make up the Mapillary team.

A beta version is already online, pictures have started pouring in and an app for the iPhone was finished in a week.

‘We are ready to start doing business very soon, although there is still much work to be done adjusting the service,’ says Jan Erik Solem.

Jan Eric Solem is presenting along with eleven other Swedish start-ups in Sweden Business stalls at the major Internet Fair LeWeb in Paris, taking place right now (10-12 December) where they’re discussing what’s to come in the next decade (you can watch LeWeb live session streams). It’s about getting the word out there,

‘Today, everyone knows who I am. I will admit that it open doors a little. I know how it was before Apple’ says Jan Erik Solem.

He is a mathematician from the beginning and after a number of years of leave, he’s also back part time at his old department at Lund University.

‘I will probably never completely let go of the academic’ says Jan Erik Solem.


Because you can take better photos of your neighbourhood than Google can. Mapillary is crowdsourcing map photos using computer vision and smartphones. It’s a 3 step process,

  1. Take photos with the Mapillary app while walking/biking/driving (–> when you’re a passenger and someone else is doing the driving part)
  2. Browse photos online at
  3. Use the API to build stuff

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