By Taryn Skees for Amplify — October 1, 2021
According to founder Jose Gaztambide, the theme of his childhood was constant change. He spent his life traveling from coast to coast with his college professor father moving to wherever the next teaching opportunity would take them. Born in Puerto Rico, he spent most of his time split between there, Palo Alto California, and eastern Connecticut.
“When I think about that upbringing, it almost feels like entrepreneurship was inevitable,” said Gaztambide. “Unrelenting change, the need to form quick and meaningful bonds with people from all kinds of backgrounds, the idea of being comfortable in discomfort without sacrificing your sense of self, those were all trained in me from a young age.”
And while Gaztambide says his Hispanic heritage plays a central and formative role in his entrepreneurial journey, he admits that at this stage of his career he finds it difficult to properly appreciate the impact for what it is. “At some point I will have more cogent reflections on the experience of being a diverse startup CEO, but I’m not quite there today.”
In 2019, The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) wanted to tackle the issue of accessible navigation, but realized they needed a private sector solution for it to achieve and scale. They were looking for a CEO who could bring social impact, private sector, and startup leadership experience and Gaztambide was an immediate and obvious fit. While Jose does not have a personal connection to someone with vision impairment, he said the mission captured his imagination from the start.
“GoodMaps represented so many things that spoke to me as a human being: unleashing human potential, leveling the playing field, and equity, solved through a combination of modern technology and made sustainable and scalable through venture capital.”
By leveraging machine learning, augmented and mixed reality, LiDAR and particle filtering, GoodMaps aims to provide a more modern approach to the traditional orientation and mobility (O&M) skills. For Gaztambide, when the visually impaired realize that they can experience and explore more than they thought possible – that is the engine that keeps GoodMaps running.
One experience that stands out? When a high school student “reflected on a walk she took with classmates where she was able to tell them all of the stores they were passing and the street intersections they were approaching,” Gaztambide said. “Her friends had never seen anything like it!”
The social impact GoodMaps provides is also not going unnoticed by larger scale tech companies. Intel conducted a worldwide search for an accessible navigation partner for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and selected GoodMaps due to the technology, vision and alignment with Intel’s own priorities and values. “I suspect that Intel entered that process expecting to go with one of the larger and more established names, but I was immensely proud that they recognized the audacity of our mission and the talent of our team,” said Gaztambide.
As part of that partnership, GoodMaps is aiming to map every Olympic and Paralympic games through 2028 and are working closely with Intel’s engineering teams to utilize and integrate their technology throughout the GoodMaps organization.
Gaztambide admits that when it comes to success as an entrepreneur, there is no perfect formula and that it comes down to a combination of education, support and luck. However he would also add to that another important factor: soft skills. Specifically, curiosity, relentlessness, communication, and perseverance.
“There is no road to success in entrepreneurship without a deep drive to figure something else out that no one has figured out,” said Gaztambide. And that must be coupled with “the fortitude to put up with all of the junk that will get thrown your way.”
When asked if he could go back and do one thing differently on this entrepreneurial journey, Gaztambide said he would make mental health training an integral part of leading a young organization, providing mental health support to the same degree that support is provided for cap table management, fundraising, and product-market fit. “We do no favors to entrepreneurs with they way we glorify their achievements or castigate their failures,” said Gaztambide.
Jose Gaztambide is the Founder and CEO of GoodMaps and formerly served as COO of Interapt. His previous experience includes time spent structuring and launching Social Impact Bonds at Quantified Ventures in Washington, DC and consultanting for McKinsey & Company.
Jose has an MBA from Cornell University where he was a Roy H Park Leadership Fellow, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras, focusing on business development and supporting local entrepreneurs. Jose began his career at CEMEX USA as a strategic planning analyst.
Jose has swum the English Channel and Alcatraz without a wetsuit, and traveled cross-country on a self-supported cycling trip. Jose lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Katherine, his son Emiliano, and their dog, Magi, and is an avid baseball fan.
For more information about Goodmaps, visit www.goodmaps.com.