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SoftBank-Backed Mapbox Names New CEO to Go After Carmakers

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(Bloomberg) -- Mapbox Inc., which makes mapping tools used by Instacart Inc. and Snap Inc., appointed a new chief executive officer who will focus on expanding sales to automakers and logistics providers.

The SoftBank-backed company has promoted Peter Sirota, a former executive at Amazon.com Inc.’s Web Services business who joined Mapbox three years ago, to the top job. He replaces Eric Gundersen, who has been with the company since its start in 2010 and now becomes chief strategy officer and chairman of the board.

The San Francisco-based startup is taking on Alphabet Inc.’s Google Maps as it tries to establish itself as the center of car navigation systems. Mapbox inked a deal with BMW Group for in-car navigation last year. It’s looking to unveil deals with a half-dozen additional carmakers this year, said a person familiar with the plans.

Sirota will also need to eventually return the company to break-even. Earlier in its lifespan, Mapbox turned a modest profit by focusing on nonprofits and governments. The levels of investment required for the auto and logistics industries took Mapbox into the red in recent years. Still, the company has raised about $150 million from SoftBank and is valued at more than $1 billion, said the person familiar with the business who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Revenue is on track to exceed $100 million this year, the person said.

A main competitor of Mapbox, as Sirota sees it, is the smartphone. About 700 million people interact with a Mapbox service each month, he said. Google Maps has more than 1 billion monthly users.

Mapbox can be better than a smartphone app by using information from a car’s sensors, Sirota said. For example, if a vehicle is running out of fuel, it can highlight the location of nearby gas stations. For electric cars, it can incorporate range data and plan routes based on the location of charging stations.

One of Sirota’s goals is to establish the car as the main input for directions before people form a lasting habit of pulling up Google or Apple maps on their phones. “Now is a very important moment,” Sirota said. “This opportunity has a window in it, so we have to get there fast.”

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