people discussing and brainstorming ideas

The Genesis of Ellipsis Drive

October 24, 2021

The Journey Begins

Ellipsis Drive is here for spatial data worth sharing. We are an organization that is passionate about the geospatial industry. We endeavor to harness this passion for the betterment of this exciting space and all the markets it impacts. As a young organization, we also have our own unique story that has made us into who we are today. And we decided to use our platform to share that story with the world. Because every story is unique and is worth sharing. And we are no exception!

It was 2017, our co-founder Rosalie van der Maas was just out of university and in Chicago working as a Junior Start Up Officer for the consulate’s office. Seeing the start up culture happen from close range lit a spark. But following through on any entrepreneurial ambitions is a real challenge. We’ve all been there right? But how many of us really embrace our dreams wholeheartedly?

Creating an Identity

She wasn’t that keen on having a physical business like a café or a shop, nor was she inclined towards consultancy or freelancing. No, she wanted to create a tangible product, something that would leave a mark on the world, something that could be scaled and would meet a true need in the market. She contacted the first person that crossed her mind who would understand this vision and be a partner in crime in this new adventure. Her brother, and now co-founder and CTO, Daniel van der Maas!

Daniel was working for the Dutch national infrastructure and water authority at the time. While the job itself was pretty satisfactory, deep down Daniel also wanted something more, something that he could call his. He was immediately in agreement to set out on this adventure. 

The two started their brainstorming sessions with a focus on technology products. As with any other start up, there were countless ideas that were promptly rejected. One of the few ideas that was advanced to a stage of more serious consideration and validation was that of having sensors on trucks to detect road defects. But eventually that was discarded too as it had too much hardware focus and our co-founders realised they were software people. We won’t sugarcoat it, the brainstorming sessions were hilarious and filled with the weirdest ideas. That’s just how brainstorming sessions work. But on the flip side, the good part is that it only needs to work once, one good idea is enough! 

Tapping into the Power of Data

They decided to put more focus on potential data products that would rely on data generated by other parties (as opposed to it needing to come from hardware they would need to deploy themselves). Coincidentally, the duo stumbled upon satellite imagery and the various applications that it can have IF made easily available. Of course there is no such thing as an actual coincidence. Leveraging the concept of data science and artificial intelligence algorithms, they planned on creating a flexible processing pipeline that could ingest any kind of satellite data, apply any kind of model, and produce homogenous but flexible data products as output.

As the product and vision started getting clearer they realized that they needed a tech wiz to bring this product to light. Enter Ellipsis Drive co-founder and CIO, Minghai Jiang. The company had officially lifted off. The product was created and it was the start of something special. The product was unique in the sense that it had a scalable yet flexible IT infrastructure and feedback mechanism that could incorporate customer feedback to optimize the quality of the data outputs. The company managed to secure its first round of pre-seed funding early 2019. 

As the trio went deeper down the rabbit hole, they were realizing a lot of new things, about the company, the industry and themselves. The most important realization was that geospatial data is really tough to sell because of the lack of proper infrastructure. It is difficult to collaborate with stakeholders and data ingestion at customer end is a big headache. Data is usually shared via technical files or complex APIs. Automated versioning, simultaneous access and permission control are luxuries that such a workflow just can’t afford despite being integral to successful project management. This was getting in the way of customer success and driving away potential business opportunities. 

Creating Synergies within the Geospatial Industry

The team decided to have an outward approach and think of things that they would want as a geospatial company. What they realized was that a flexible platform for easy sharing and managing of geospatial data was missing in the market.  The idea was to break down the silos and create synergies for the betterment of the industry. Something that was truly interoperable in nature. The team also wanted to do away with archaic license based business models and replace it with a simple storage based fee structure. A drive-like solution that would make dealing with geospatial data the same as dealing with any other data type.

Instead of competing with other geospatial data providers, Ellipsis Drive found it much more beneficial to complement them and add value to the entire geospatial ecosystem. And so, with several iterations and a lot of hard work,  our latest product offering was born. A plug-and-play solution that makes sharing, managing and selling spatial data easier than ever before. 

Ellipsis Drive – Current day scenario

“It’s amazing how quickly the challenges you face, as a founder and as a team, change. The milestones we reached a year ago seem like child’s play today. To me, that means that some goals may seem unattainable from where you stand now, but your perspective on what is possible changes the further you climb. Take it one challenge at a time, and before you know it, you reach the summit.

It has been a journey full of ups and downs for the company. But we wouldn’t change anything about it. The ups and downs are what makes us special. We truly believe that geospatial data has a big role to play in the future of this planet, in creating a unified and sustainable world. The answers lie in togetherness which is why we believe that our collaborative solution is the way forward. By creating a community of geospatial data enthusiasts we intend to challenge and push each other’s limits every day and tap into the true potential of this amazing industry. Because finally, it is about progression, not perfection. 

Are you looking to collaborate with an organization like ours? Do you share the same passion and enthusiasm for the geospatial industry? Get in touch with us today!

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