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talent 23, a year of talent and skills

a year of talent and skills

Company spotlight: MapStand

Revolutionising energy transitions and setting down roots in Sheffield.

In 2015, geologist Francis Cram and his colleague decided to cast a light on the opaque world of global gas and oil. They recognised that a dearth in accessible data in the energy sector was hampering organisations worldwide in their attempts to move to sustainable energy sources. As a result, MapStand was born and Francis and his team set about building a global data set that would empower businesses to navigate the energy landscape. We spoke to Francis about his move to Sheffield, the company’s holistic approach to data mapping, and the ways that COVID-19 impacted the direction of travel for MapStand.

Inspired by regular conversations between colleagues on mapping, data and a lack of transparency in their field of oil and gas, London-based MapStand was just gaining traction after its first product launch in December 2019. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Forced to adapt swiftly, MapStand pivoted.

“When the apocalypse hit we had to really rethink things! We were not a sustainable business at that point and we couldn’t raise the money needed in February and March when COVID hit” says Francis Cram, Co-founder and CEO of MapStand. “We did a review of the business and realised that we probably needed to pivot straight away in order to survive this. We totally changed the focus of the business, making energy transition the main focal point of the data that we build.”

Co-founder and CEO of MapStand, Francis Cram.

MapStand secured shareholder support to realign the company and move forward in this new direction. Reduced in size, the team shed its physical office in London to become a fully remote organisation, a move that coincided with changes in Francis’s personal life. He explains,

“When we knew there could be a lockdown, my wife and I realised that we were going to lose our main source of childcare. So, we went to stay with my in-laws in Castleton for a few days, expecting it to be over quite quickly. We were there for ten weeks and we just had the best time ever.

“When we went back home, life just wasn’t the same anymore. I was commuting to London and thinking to myself: ‘what the hell are we doing here?’. We got our house on the market and moved up to the Peak District as quickly as we could. It’s been magic every single day. I have to pinch myself. It’s just absolutely awesome.”

Rebuilding a business in Sheffield

As Francis and his family settled into their new life, MapStand approached a new ‘growth cycle’. In addition to private investment, Mapstand also secured South Yorkshire’s Tech Welcome Grant, which meant the team could invest in a physical office space in the region.

“I knew it was really important to build a base again where we could more easily train people, rebuild a company culture and bring some new energy into the business.” says Francis. “It was a risk in a sense, setting up in Sheffield. We do quite niche work and finding the people that we need is risky, it’s actually the key risk to our business.”

So far, it’s proven a risk worth taking. MapStand moved into Sheffield Technology Parks in February 2024 and has already made two permanent hires. The company is also teaming up with two students from Sheffield Business School throughout April to carry out project work.

“Straightaway we’ve been able to engage with the Universities and I’m hoping we can access high quality graduates to support our growth. We’d like to be part of their education too, to get them primed and ready for industry,” explains Francis. He adds, “There are lots of people not going down to London to find the big jobs, they’re actually looking for a good lifestyle up here. Sheffield is not a second rate city by any means, it’s an absolute first rate city with high quality people living here.”

Informing innovative energy transition pathways

MapStand has carved out a unique business proposition, mapping data sets of energy infrastructure with a sharp focus on facilitating the transition towards sustainable energy solutions.

From researching the power grid and renewable power generation to analysing projects pivotal to decarbonisation, MapStand’s integrated data sets, accessible via an interactive platform, enable companies to navigate the evolving energy landscape with greater clarity and understanding.

Central to MapStand’s success is its unique, holistic approach.

“Our product is unique in the market in the way it integrates the full spectrum of energy infrastructure, from oil and gas through to renewable energy. And that really enables us to explore the different pathways that energy transition will take.”

This includes exploring innovative solutions such as repurposing existing energy infrastructure – such as offshore oil fields or gas pipelines – for carbon capture and storage or hydrogen transport.

Looking ahead, MapStand is committed to further integrating itself in the city and through membership of Sheffield Digital the company is already benefiting from the lively events scene and vibrant Slack community. The team has ambitious plans for future fundraising and expansion, and we are looking forward to seeing MapStand grow and deliver meaningful change to the energy sector.

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