By Suzy Strutner, managing editor at Grow Wire
⏰ 4-minute read
Mapistry helps manufacturers get compliant with environmental regulations through software, consulting and training. However, is started out as simply a software.
Co-founders Allie and Ryan Janoch tweaked their original business model upon realizing that customers needed not only software but also education on how to use it.
The pivot played a role in closing a $2.5 million VC funding round and propelling the company toward more hires and customers.
Overhauling your business model is rarely easy, but it often pays off. Just ask Allie and Ryan Janoch, the married co-founders of Mapistry. Their environmental compliance company started out offering software that allowed everyday engineers to do the work usually reserved for costly specialists. But soon, it became clear that companies didn’t want to budge from their old ways. So the Janochs pivoted.
Now, their business is a full-service consultancy which uses the original Mapistry software to help companies (mostly manufacturers) comply with state environmental regulations (mostly those pertaining to stormwater and hazardous materials). Its 70 customers include wineries in Napa and Republic Services, the country’s second-largest waste management company.
Mapistry grew from five employees at its founding in 2013 to 20, and it’s recently emerged from a see-saw of profitability into stable territory. Best of all, it recently closed a $2.5 million VC funding round that really put them on the, um, map.
Allie Janoch co-founded Mapistry in 2013 with her husband, Ryan.
The first try
Mapistry’s original product was a geographic mapping software, which is critical at industrial companies. (Think of car manufacturers, waste management companies and anyone else who produces potential pollutants or is concerned with their business’s interactions with the environment.)
The type of mapping software that most companies use is called GIS—it’s expensive, complicated and usually requires hiring an in-house expert. Ryan, a civil engineer, saw an opportunity to make mapping software simpler so more people at a company could use it.
Allie, then a software engineer, was up to the task. She coded the software, and they started selling it as Mapistry in 2014.
However, things didn’t go too well.
“Early customers didn’t want to switch [from GIS to Mapistry],” Ryan said. “It’s a whole job to be a GIS specialist; people build careers around it. Our original intent was to make it so that any engineer could use Mapistry and do that GIS specialist’s job. But it didn’t work, because people didn’t want to switch.”
Complexity may have played a role, too—Mapistry’s software was simpler than GIS, and the Janochs stressed that as customers, companies could continue using GIS for more complex projects. But still, they didn’t bite.
"Our original intent was to make it so that any engineer could use Mapistry and do that GIS specialist’s job. But it didn’t work, because people didn’t want to switch.” -Ryan Janoch, co-founder of Mapistry
Mapistry was courting a potential customer called AC Transit, explaining how its software could help the company discover whether it was complying with the state’s complex stormwater regulations.
“The person in charge said, ‘Mapistry looks awesome, but I can’t worry about software right now because I need to take water samples ASAP,’” Allie said. “They were going to be our biggest customer, and we needed them. So we went down and took water samples for them in the rain.”
Mapistry no longer does favors like this. But the one-time deed inspired a change in its business model, Ryan said. Instead of simply building software, Mapistry needed to become a service--specifically, a service that helps companies comply with environmental regulations like those pertaining to stormwater. (The AC Transit debacle partly inspired this focus, but even before it, the Janochs noticed that companies were using Mapistry for stormwater compliance as opposed to other possible uses.)
Ryan uses Mapistry on his phone to assess a stormwater drain. (credit: Twitter/mapistry)
Mapistry added consulting services to its offering, hiring regulators that went out to sites and taught customers how to use the software for highly specific tasks like taking and evaluating stormwater samples or designing government-required contingency plans for hazmat spills. The response was positive, Ryan said.
“It turns out you can’t just give people a blank canvas and say, ‘Here’s a tool that creates maps!’ You’ve got to show them what it can actually do,” he said.
Today, Mapistry’s suite of offerings includes software, consulting, training and best practices guidance for companies who need help complying with ever-changing environmental regulations. It targets almost exclusively manufacturing companies, as opposed to the broad appeal it started with.
“We went very deep in an industry and solved a very small, specific problem,” Ryan said. “It’s a big market. There are big horizontal plays, and there are deep vertical plays … Long-term, it’s better to go really deep.”
Mapistry runs environmental compliance workshops for industrial companies. (credit: Twitter/mapistry)
Mapping, money and marriage
The Janochs originally bootstrapped Mapistry, then completed an angel round of funding in 2015. In late 2017, they closed a $2.5 million seed round after Allie sent a cold email to Jason Lemkin of SaaStr Fund, the details of which she recounts in a helpful Medium post.
During the funding process, some VC firms rejected the Janochs outright “for no reason” upon learning they were married, Ryan said. But overall, the business has only benefited from their relationship, as it makes for a rock-solid communication dynamic.
To Allie, trust stands out most.
“Our areas of expertise are very different,” she said. “That’s key for us, and probably for co-founders in general. It breeds this natural trust … There are constantly things that aren’t going the way you want, so it’s about trusting the other is doing their best and not second-guessing their decisions or capabilities.”
"There are constantly things that aren’t going the way you want, so it’s about trusting the other is doing their best and not second-guessing their decisions or capabilities.” -Allie Janoch, co-founder of Mapistry
On to the next
Next up, the duo plans to expand Mapistry’s repertoire as a “trusted advisor” on all things industrial environmental compliance: Having established its expertise in stormwater regulations, Mapistry is now developing suites that will help customers comply with air pollution and wastewater rules.
The company’s team is also poised to grow this year, along with its bottom line.
“We are splitting our services and customer success teams, which means building a customer success team from scratch,” Allie said. “We’ll also be scaling the team across the board, and of course we have big revenue growth goals.”
Surely they won’t waste any time.
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