Our story first started in the city of Porto in Portugal, a beautiful and proud city that is slightly less fashionable than Lisbon, but exponentially more beautiful and it all began with a challenge: “Why not building a new navigation app that is fundamentally free and can compete with the big current players?”. We weren’t exactly joyously jumping at the idea, partly because we all knew that he wasn’t done talking: “naturally this would require a considerable investment, complete re-design of the user-experience and, it goes without saying, profitability”.
View of Porto’s Douro river and famous port wine boats.
CEO’s are notorious for big ideas, that’s how they get to have important sounding jobs that need to be shortened by initials. It is also true that business endeavours must start with something, and it’s usually preferable to start with an idea rather than by accident, but most of us present in that room felt that this wasn’t an idea at all, more like the equivalent to someone blurting out on a pharmaceutical company board meeting: “Hey guys, how about we create some kind of pill, or ointment that keeps people from dying? Research shows that most people are very keen on living and would be interested in using such a product”.
That being said, no objections were spoken that day, our CEO João Neto may have famously big ideas, but not much is known about their flexible properties, and who wants to raise negative feedback to a man who runs ultra-marathons to relax?
João Neto on the far left preparing for another ultra marathon. On his side Carlos Sá, 2013 Badwater winner.
“I mean, how was I supposed to find a decent restaurant in Patagonia? I dream of a world where I can download any map of my choosing and truly get a sense of what’s around me and how to get there”.
He continued his dissertation giving his average man/world traveller insight on how annoying it can be travelling to some exotic location on the other side of the world just to find yourself deprived of the local map, “I mean, how was I supposed to find a decent restaurant in Patagonia? I dream of a world where I can download any map of my choosing and truly get a sense of what’s around me and how to get there”. A beautiful dream indeed, João had already a foot out the door when he added “Hah… And make sure to make it look good, design matters!” – Pure gold insights there.
In all fairness, our team is part of a group with over 15 years of experience in developing software, but entering the arena knowingly you are David and in front of you stands none other than Goliath and his beer friends can be a scary prospect. Fortunately, like any respectable David, we hand a sling up our sleeves that can be summed up in one word: Flexibility.
Karta’s team @ 2017 team building event.
Karta GPS, a name we all agreed on as soon as our CEO “suggested it”, would not be a one-size-fits-all type of app. Offline navigation, but with great online integrations like Yelp and Foursquare. Open Street Maps, but empowered with other source materials to enrich the user experience and cool exclusive products that add to our vision of a more customizable navigation that fits every user preference.
10 months after our launch, we are happy to say things are doing ok. Karta earned interesting market shares in several markets and user feedback and rating is very good. Our devil-may-care attitude has even brought us global attention when one of our funny navigation voices was covered both on Late Night with Seth Meyers and James Corden’s Late Late show.
We are not Goliath, nor do we wish to be, but we do reserve the right to sit at the big boys table and make our uncomfortable jokes with no fear of being slain. We believe in doing things differently and being recognized for that; that’s how we’ve done things so far and that’s how we want to keep doing them.
Here’s a flashback for you, back when we were still working on primordial things like the app’s colour scheme, our research showed us blue was a popular choice on the app store, we all wanted to make the right choice and blue it was until someone said “Weren’t we supposed to do something different? What’s the antithesis of blue? As we all know, the answer is orange, and that’s when our app was really born.