CloudMade raises €2.4m to supercharge open source maps

Think for a moment about about how amazing it was a few years ago to see Google Maps for the first time. Suddenly not only was mapping a fascinating new arena for online, but Google’s map API lead to a wave of mashups and new innovation. It even lead UK startup MultiMap to completely change course and invest in draggable maps, because the market wanted them.

Now think for a moment about the incredible amout of data and value that is locked inside proprietary mapping databases. Hell, it’s why Nokia bought Navteq last year for £4bn and why Teleatlas went to TomTom for £2bn.

Now hold that thought while you consider that implications of someone first creating a globally available open-source mapping platform, and then launching a startup to leverage that data.

Well that’s what just happened, and they just won financing.

Open-source mapping company CloudMade has raised €2.4 million in Series A financing round from Copenhagen-based venture fund Sunstone Capital. They join open source evangelist Nikolaj Nyholm and early Skype investor Morten Lund.

CloudMade will professionalise and package geo data from OpenStreetMap, the global initiative to create a free, editable map of the world from user-generated input.

OpenStreetMap basically provides free tools to upload and edit user-generated GPS trace information to create highly detailed maps. And it’s a rapidly growing community now numbering in the tens of thousands of members all over the world attempting to complete the global map. The OSM project also also enables the creation of multiple metadata layers with additional details such as foot and bicycle paths, retail, building addresses and even ski slopes.

CloudMade is co-founded by Steve Coast – who actually started OSM in 2004 – and long-time OSM contributor Nick Black. It’s role will be to ensure the data integrity of the OSM and to package that data for third-party use, such as for map tiles, metadata and software tools.

OpenStreetMaps for urban areas like London, Berlin and even Copenhagen or the Netherlands are pretty good and can only get better because of the open source model. Other mapping companies have to spend millions making this kind of rich data.