Nate Abbott's Journey to MapQuest

Startup Grind Minneapolis enjoyed a fantastic evening with Nate Abbott on April 29th.  The night kicked off with an hour of networking and pizza, followed by a fireside chat about Nate’s career as a startup founder and executive at MapQuest.  Nate was returning back to his alma mater and the event’s venue, Macalester College, from which he graduated in 2005.

Nate’s career started out of college after pursuing a financial job on Wall Street with JP Morgan.  He was involved with some top mergers and acquisitions such as Sirius/XM Radio.  After 2 years on Wall Street, Nate needed a change of pace.  At the peak of the market in 2007, he quit his job and decided to travel the world.  On this excursion, Nate & his longtime best friend and co-founder, Natty Zola, decided that they would start a company together.

Nate & Natty made the commitment to each other that they were going to start a business.  While traveling on a sailboat between Panama & Colombia, they began to examine the challenges that travelers face when sharing their trip experiences. After throwing some ideas back and forth, it hit them- travelers need a platform to record their adventures. A place where family and friends can keep up with the journey. A site to communicate with other globetrotters. They realized that this type of forum was lacking in their own expedition, so they were going to create it. But where to start?

Both Nate & Natty moved back home to their parents’ houses, at which point they had two options- raise money to hire someone to build the site or learn how to code themselves. They went with the latter and spent quite a bit of time in their basements. Although their social lives deteriorated, they knew that this was the way to go.

Finally, after six months of soaking up the tech life, it was time to build. Everlater launched in 2008, but a lot of work followed. Customer development was the next step. They needed to find out what travelers are looking for when sharing their experiences online.

Nate & Natty thought about applying to the incubator TechStars in Boulder, CO. It sounded like a good opportunity, and when they applied, they were accepted. They entered the three month program in 2009 and got a taste of what it takes to construct a successful platform. Their time at TechStars led to a $350,000 investment. Their hard work was beginning to pay off. Natty & Nate created some very valuable relationships during their seed funding efforts, as well.

Everlater was looking good- they built the site that they had envisioned, they had visitors, and people seemed to be enjoying the it. However, not as many people were signing up for Everlater’s services as they hoped. They felt as though they had plateaued.

Although this was a stressful time, Everlater was able to evolve by distributing the travel journaling platform to travel agencies, and it was a huge hit. Travel agencies suggested the journal to their customers before their trips and many of them took advantage. This was a defining moment of growth for the company.

MapQuest, which is also based out of Denver, was keeping a close eye on Everlater. The two organizations had quite a bit in common as far as mapping out destinations and keeping track of them. Nate & Natty had met a few executives at MapQuest and there had been some discussion about partnering. Everlater would bring a lot of value to the company, and Nate knew it.

In 2012, Nate & Natty announced that Everlater had been acquired by AOL/MapQuest. It was an offer that both men felt comfortable with and it presented a new opportunity- working for MapQuest. Nate became the Head of Product at MapQuest, the position that he still holds today. Natty took a management position, too.

Nate has brought his hunger and experience to one of the largest mapping services in the world. A man who was once making six-figures on Wall Street, Nate Abbott successfully built his own company and sold it to AOL/MapQuest with his life-long best friend.