This is a follow up story for Geocode.xyz. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Ervin Ruci. Since 2005 I have been interested in the problem of geoparsing and geocoding - a piece of software that analyzes a string of text for geographical locations, then matches them to a database of locations with latitude, longitude values. Geoparsing is the process of extracting and disambiguating location entities from text, and Geocoding is the process of matching them to latitude, longitude values.
As a graduate student, I built geocoder.ca in the summer of 2005 then I went on to build several other businesses that relied on its geocoding API. Many of these businesses are now defunct, but geocoder.ca is still going strong with 2020 being its best year to date - over 90% growth from the year before:
However, my flagship product is Geocode.xyz, a re-design of geocoder.ca I built while on vacation in Spain and launched with this tweet:
The reason I started working on it while on vacation is that when entering the address of my Airbnb on Google Maps sent me to the wrong location, as is evident below, forcing me to spend a hot Barcelona afternoon on the phone with my host who spoke little English, to figure out how to get to his place.
Long story shorter, geocode.xyz was launched and today it is making over 200k a year in profits (after subtracting about 30k in server costs.)
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Geocode.xyz has grown over 70% from a year ago although I'm less focused on growth and more on product development.
I’ve never done any SEO or Marketing, growth has mostly come from customer referrals.
Everything I've ever done is bootstrapped and I’ve always done all the business processes myself, without relying on employees, however, I’m currently looking to hire someone who would fit well in a new project I’m planning to launch on geocode.xyz. If you can solve this puzzle (and would like to work/learn about these things), apply!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
What I've learned in the last year is that things can and will change most unexpectedly, for the worst or the better. The latter has been true for my businesses, but I don’t take that for granted, it could also be for the worse - as it has indeed been the case for several other businesses in 2020 (and for a number of my defunct businesses over the years).
The main lesson anyone should have learned this pandemic year is: diversify, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Change is the only constant.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I don't make long term plans or even short term plans. If I did that would conflict with my idea of freedom, which for me is more important than an imagined sense of relative certainty. I like to be free to make new plans on the go, although I might have a general vague idea about where I'm going. I'll figure out the how along the way.
In terms of this business, I’m working a lot these days to improve the accuracy of geocode.xyz and add new features that could in themselves be completely new businesses. One such feature I added at the height of the pandemic was route optimization on the batch geocoding interface.
This is also known as TSP (the Traveling Salesman Problem) which like many other open problems today, is simply an optimization task stated as follows: you have several locations and you want to find the shortest route to visit them all.
As the number of locations grows, so does the problem complexity (n! For n locations)
Several existing products solve TSP for up to 20 locations, while the system I have built places no limits on the number of locations. Just upload your raw location data on the batch geocoding interface then click on “Best Route.”
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Oh yeah, I’ve read lots of books. The mind needs to wander off business if it wants to be good at it, or anything else for that matter.
I finally got around to read Steve Jobs’ biography, a read that brought back memories of my own journey in technology (I’ve been a Mac user since 1996).
I also read all books of Noah Harari (Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Lessons). Recently I bought a Remarkable 2 tablet, it is a nice piece of technology for reading ebooks. I’ve read a few fiction books on it, including some old classics such as Alexandre Dumas’ Celebrated Crimes. I like reading books with a historical bent, it brings things into perspective by catching a glimpse of people and their lives in the past.
I wander what people would be thinking about us when they read of this time 100 or so years from now. I think we are living in the best time in history (thus far) for technological progress. I’m lucky I’m alive at such a time.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Don’t listen to anyone's advice. You should know yourself better than anyone else, if you don't, work on that.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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