An App Puts Local Businesses on Their Own Map

2 minute read


To help her guests find their way around her town on the Hudson River, Airbnb host Joanie went further than providing a list of local attractions. She created a custom mobile map marked with the closest train stations, rental cars, parks, restaurants, and tourist destinations.

She needed no app-making experience, and it cost her nothing. Not only her Airbnb guests, but anyone who downloads the Citymaps app can view Joanie’s map of the Irvington, NY, area—as well as her insights on its best features and linkable profiles of each spot—on a mobile device.

Hers is one of countless use-cases Citymaps founders Elliot Cohen and Aaron Rudenstine had in mind when they started building their social mapping platform four years ago. 

“Aaron and Elliott looked at the maps that existed like Google Maps. Though they are great navigation tools to get from point A to point B, they are not optimized for exploration and discovery—to find new places to go and uncover hidden gems and local businesses,” says Nicole Brown, Citymaps chief marketing officer. Citymaps launched an iOS app three years ago, followed by an Android app, and a Web product in 2015. This year it added a new ‘offline mapping’ functionality for travelers without wifi access or who don’t want to incur roaming charges. They get free access to downloadable maps in more than 5,000 cities around the world.

Brown touts it as a great tool to support local businesses by literally putting them onto maps so that others can find them. Drop pins can appear as a business logos and clicking on them brings up photos and reviews. Brown says Citymaps is already populated with business and point-of-interest listings worldwide, but urges business owners to claim and take control of their own profiles (for free) and to provide prospective customers with special offers through the app (fremium pricing). “It gives small businesses recognition and awareness that they might not get on other maps,” she says.

Citymaps’ strategic publishing partnerships with more than 200 publishers include Travel & Leisure, the New York Times, and Michelin Guides. “We curate content with their editors that enhances their readers’ experiences,” Brown says.

Citymaps is helping the Hotel Indigo chain create a “color of discovery” series of maps to help guests “unlock the local experiences of neighborhoods around world where their hotels are,” Brown says. With local experts in 42 North American cities, Citymaps will help the Intercontinental Hotels Group brand curate 10 neighborhood guides for each, including maps for coffee, lunch, art, shopping, and live music. And a prepaid coffee subscription service called Cups has worked with Citymaps to carry out its mission to support local coffee shops by offering mobile “coffee crawl” maps for Philadelphia and San Francisco

Other possible use cases: Brides and grooms who want to share local hotspots with out-of-town wedding guests, small farmers who want to show patrons where to find restaurants and markets that source their produce, real estate agents who want to help potential new residents get to know a town, pet shops that want to help customers find the area’s best dog parks and pet-friendly businesses. The possibilities really are endless.