CartoDB: An inside look at how Twitter’s best maps are made

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Data, data and more data. Thanks to current technologies, companies, institutions and individuals are producing large amounts of information that can be gathered and analyzed in one form or another. That data can be tremendously useful, but adequate visualization techniques are needed to understand what it means and be able to easily draw conclusions at a glance. That’s where the Spanish startup, CartoDB, and its maps come into play.

Its founders, Javier de la Torre and Sergio Alvarez Leiva, have been working in data visualization since 2007. It all started with a project on the relationship between protected areas and conservation of endangered species. The idea behind CartoDB could not have taken root at a better time; the project was acquired by a UN agency and seven years later, De la Torre and Alvarez’s company developed a map for Twitter, which revolutionized how spectators watched the World Cup final in Brazil. The magic of data visualization allowed followers to tweet about the match, minute by minute, worldwide:

The two founders jumped from one project to another for more than seven years. First, the two Spaniards created Vizzuality, a startup focused on consultancy projects in the field of scientific data visualization. With clients such as NASA, Vizzuality then led to CartoDB, the second company created by De la Torre and Alvarez .

This service is what Twitter currently uses to visually represent the data generated at every global event on the social network; not only every match of the World Cup was replayed on a tweet map but also, and more recently, the Super Bowl.

The success of the service offered by this startup – which is ‘freemium’ and available to any Internet user – is reflected in its growth. It has been profitable almost since its inception. CartoDB has also raised $8 million (about 7 million euros) in a recent funding round, and aims to close 2015 with 65 employees (up from 35 workers at the end of 2014).

And this is all thanks to some maps that facilitate the understanding of staggering quantities of data. A quick look at the map with tweets about Beyoncé’s new album or another on posts during the final match of the last Champions League allows us to see the tip of a giant iceberg that big data visualization is about to become; a rising new sector in which a Spanish startup has already achieved worldwide success.

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