2020 may have been the worst of times for millions of companies and entrepreneurs around the world, but not for Ajay Bulusu, who co-founded Singapore-based SaaS SaaS software as a service startup NextBillion.ai in February that year.
A global pandemic can’t quite be called the best of times for any company, but that’s when logistics, e-commerce, and delivery businesses realised the importance of a good mapping service. It’s not as simple as asking the delivery rider to use Google Maps to navigate.
NextBillion.ai builds spatial infrastructure needed for enabling location-based experiences. It basically helps companies build and manage their own mapping service.
Take, for instance, a food-delivery company. NextBillion.ai can help it get map data that takes into account accurate restaurant locations, entry/exit gates, detailed apartment maps, and parking spots to reduce delivery times. It’s something quick commerce quick commerce The Ken How foodpanda was quick off the mark in SE Asia’s q-commerce race Read more companies, which are breaking the 10-minute delivery barrier, would find really valuable.
Bulusu and his co-founders––Shaolin Zheng and Gaurav Bubna––got the idea for NextBillion.ai while working in the mapping team of Nasdaq-listed super app Grab. They’re part of the ‘ Grab mafia Grab mafia The Ken From Silicon Valley to S’pore: the ‘Grab Mafia’ is forging its future in SEA Read more ’, a growing alumni network of former Grab employees. And there’s no doubt that Grab’s listing last month will only increase the visibility of startups founded by ex-Grabbers.
Prior to Grab, Bulusu spent five years at Google in India and San Francisco in various departments, from channel sales to Google Maps and Google Express Google Express Google Express was a shopping service from Google available in some parts of the US that was launched on a free trial basis across San Francisco. Unlike Amazon Prime, it doesn't require any membership or subscription. It's now part of Google Shopping. . He thinks it’s impossible for him to give up building a career in mapping services. “Mapping is an obsessive business. It’s a problem that’s never really solved because the world keeps changing. There’s always work to do when it comes to maps.”
NextBillion.ai, which turns two next month, has so far raised US$13.5 million from marquee investors like Falcon Edge Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Microsoft’s venture fund M12. To understand the company’s vision, The Ken had a virtual sitdown with Bulusu to discuss geospatial technology and how a small startup is looking to compete with giants like Google and, possibly, Grab.