Mapzen had a mandate to work only on open software and data, a very rare opportunity. Usually, companies that pursue open software or data draw a strategic line about what will be open and what will be proprietary. This makes a lot of sense; it was the case at my previous companies and will certainly be the case at my next company. But some kind of open strategy remains critical in mapping, a field dominated by incumbents who have invested billions of dollars and who use their advantages to restrict products across many industries. No one can compete in mapping at this point without embracing some collaborative efforts. At Mapzen, we went to the extreme and drew the line at near-zero proprietary elements, basically just this website and some operational code that didn’t make sense to publish.
Would I undertake this strategy again?