Digital maps are vital tools of municipal business, be it in planning, transportation, public safety, public works, economic development and much more to improve the quality of life. Google Maps and Uber, for example, is part of modern life, getting you “from here to there” efficiently. But long before Google was born – even before its founders were born – there was Jack Dangermond, who essentially invented the digital map, a lanky white-haired 70-year-old billionaire who is the unlikeliest of tech moguls.

The company he founded with his wife has always been able to keep up with technological advance like workstations, personal computers, internet, cloud and mobile devices. ESRI is still privately held and had $1.1 billion in sales, having its value estimated at $3 billion. John Hanke, who led for six years led Google’s mapping efforts, says that “he kind of created the industry” and products like Google Earth, Maps, Street View “were built on the shoulders of what he created.” Many thought these could be the biggest existential threat Esri ever faced, but in fact, last year, Google decided to focus on other technologies. Google maps customers began moving to Esri, that already owns more than half of the market. To Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft, another ESRI client, “one of the areas of technology that has gones further than I ever expected is mapping, and we have Jack Dangermond to thank, in large part, for his pioneering efforts of almost 50 years”.

Raised in Redlands, California – a town of roughly 25,000 at the time – the son of a gardener and a maid never took outside financing, but a $5000 loan from his mother in the early days. Profitable since day one.


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GIS for business


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