Even in the Internet age, Google Maps isn’t the only way to use maps. Marissa Tejada tells us about Staridas Geography, a Greek Start-up making maps “pretty”.
Ongoing Greek start-up series
These days, Google Maps may be the go-to map to find your way around most places in the world. However, even in the Internet age, there’s much more to maps than the ones we conveniently use online. One Greek start-up is seeking success in map making. In this month’s start-up feature, meet the founder of Staridas Geography and the inventor of the “pretty map.”
Greeks innovate! Staridas Geography is one of a growing number of Greek start-ups.
Greek Start-up: Staridas Geography
For Spiros Staridas, maps have always been more than just a tool to get from point A to point B without getting lost. He says cartography, the fascinating science of designing maps, is limited only by our imagination.
“One half of a map is geography and spatial data. Meanwhile, the other half of the map is its design, and this creative aspect of map making will never go away.”
So even in the world of quick and easy downloadable Google Maps, Spiros is making headway with his Greek start-up company, Staridas Geography. He creates maps of any scale, any subject — accurate maps for any part of the world. The maps are created on paper, through digital media or drawn from scratch, including maps for special Staridas editions or for individual clients.
His clients have ranged from the local governments to private businesses, like hotels, travel agencies or ad firms but his favorite clients are fans of their map editions and many tourists.
“They will buy our maps because they were attracted to them. I witnessed this magical moment many times.”
That’s where Staridas’ pretty maps comes into play.
“What makes our maps special is that we treat them as an opportunity to create something beautiful, something pretty. These maps we make provide meticulous, accurate details and information about a depicted area in a carefully designed style.”
Greek start-up Staridas Geography makes maps “pretty”. IMAGE: MARIA KARKANAKI
Mapping the start-up dream
Spiros’ start-up dream began as a child growing up in Heraklion, Crete. He said he was always fascinated with maps, atlases and globes.
“I could sit and stare to them for hours.”
He explained that traveling in his 20s required buying a hoard of maps to draw up itineraries and research secret spots. He eventually earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment of the School of Sciences at the University of Athens in Greece. He then went on to earn a Master’s in Engineering Project Management from the Civil Engineering School of the University of Leeds in U.K. Upon returning to Crete, he immersed himself in more training, including three levels of geographical information systems (Basic GIS, Advanced GIS and WebGIS) at a private school for GIS education. After several years of running an environmental impact assessment business, he changed gears to pursue his dream of map making.
In 2013, Spiros sold some pricey and well-loved DJ equipment to fund the making of his first map, and headed to Santorini. After exhausting field surveys, his first map made it into bookstore windows later that year.
“For every little map I made, I had happy clients. The response was uplifting and I was feeling like my dream was taking off! However, the reality as a start-up is looking at the monthly and yearly profit margins too which has been discouraging.”
He says the economic crisis in Greece has made it more challenging for young Greeks like himself who aspire to move forward with their own businesses.
“The way things are, the Greek government seems like they don’t support small businesses, young entrepreneurs, sole proprietors or freelancers. Rules, taxes, procedures, all are against us. The economic crisis has clearly affected my efforts in many negative ways.”
Still, he says he hopes Greeks can overcome the crisis.
“I continue building my start-up because I strongly believe that we, individual Greeks, must stay home, fight, suffer and build our companies. We can attract healthy sustainable revenue for our beautiful country.”
Continuing the map dream
Spiros is still working towards making his professional goals happen.
“Every single euro I have received has been spent back to fund my start-up. In financial terms, I currently measure my start-up’s success with the sole criterion that it is still alive and smoothly developing — slowly but steadily.”
He added that the fact he turned his childhood dreams into reality is his true success.
A frozen picture in time
Besides working on building Staridas to be a global name in map making, Spiros aspires to wants to leave a lasting impact with his work.
“The most magical thing about maps is they provide a picture frozen in time.”
Much like the way we think of vintage maps, Spiros said his maps will one day be precious documents to represent the times.
“Time makes maps vintage but time also makes maps precious documents of the past. This is something for society, isn’t it?”
Spiros aims to see his maps in more bookstores, across Europe and in other parts of the world.
“I’m working hard to build a positive reputation. I know that Staridas maps are something exceptional, something worth time and money. They are something to take home and they are something pretty.”
More in the Greek Start-up Series with Marissa Tejada: