Tom MacWright

Where are the public geospatial companies?

Something I’ve idly wondered about in regards to the geospatial industry is the impact of Esri staying private. Esri is big and important, but it’s hard to say precisely how much, because it’s private - maybe it does $1.3B in revenue, it has somewhere around 40% or 43% market share. I don’t know what market cap that would give it as a public company, that’s a question for some Wall Street intern.

But, given that Esri isn’t public, what public geospatial companies are there? It’s hard to say.

There are a few public satellite imaging companies like Planet Labs, which has had a hard time since going public via SPAC, and Blacksky and Terran (same story). All of which trade at well under $1B, with Blacksky and Terran closer to $200M, which is kind of a mid-lifecycle private startup valuation. Maxar used to be a public company and has huge revenue and reach, but went private under a private equity firm in 2023 for $6.4B.

What about software? There are far fewer examples. The best example is TomTom, listed in Amsterdam as TOM2. HERE used to be a subsidiary of Nokia, but was bought by a consortium of automakers and is now owned by a lot of minority stakes from Intel, Mitsubishi, and others. Foursquare is still private, and so are smaller players like Mapbox and CARTO.

Of course Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Meta have their enormous geospatial departments, but they are heavily diversified oligopolies and none of them offer GIS-as-a-service or GIS-as-software-product in any real form - in fact when they do tinker in geo it tends to be as open source organizations rather than productization, those efforts probably cross-funded by their advertising and data-mining cashflows.

Trimble seems like the closest I can find to a “pure-play” public GIS company - they at least list geospatial as one of their top products on the front page. Architecture/CAD focused companies Autodesk, Bentley, and Hexagon are also publicly-traded - maybe they count, too.

Thanks Martijn for noting that TomTom is public.