Thinking Outside the Cage: The #Geo Community with Ed Freyfogle of OpenCage Data

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In this episode of First Things First, I sit down with Ed Freyfogle, founder of OpenCage Data, a tech company offering an API Geocoder that easily converts coordinates to and from places.

The Story:
Drawing inspiration and creating value the Geo-Community

As Seth Godin said, there’s a tribe for everything. And one of the strongest, yet relatively unknown, tribes might be the #geomob. This group of Europe-located entrepreneurs, tech geeks, and GPS aficionados has spun up an impressive array of geo-focused tech companies. And at the heart of it lies Ed, who started the #geomob and remains an important organizer and investor with in the community.

We take some time with Fred to learn about this community and his latest endeavor: OpenCage Data.

The Lesson:
Keep It Simple

It easy for Ed to get caught up in the latest and greatest complicated application of geo technology – and its easy for us to let scope creep define and outgrow the original purposes of our IoT projects – but in both cases, simple is always better.

  • Seek simplicity. Whether you’re an investor like Ed, or a deployment creator like most of the audience, its important to choose products feature that better serve the core customer need. Remember to identify the key value proposition you will deliver to customers; and stick to it!
  • Consider Open Data Sources: Many IoT deployments benefit from external data sets. In particular, ‘open’ data sets may be more well-maintained and cheaper to use than proprietary alternatives.
  • Draw inspiration from wherever it appears. What3words is a novel solution created from a not-so-novel problem: one each of us might face at a certain time in life!

About Our Guest: Ed Freyfogle

Ed is co-founder of OpenCage Data, a company that provides a reverse and forward geocoding API based on open data, with many customers from the fleet and device tracking industries (including Bosch, Telit, BMW, Toyota, and many more).

Previously he spent 10 years in the London start-up scene, where he co-founded and later successfully exited from a real estate meta-search engine. He has an MBA from MIT, and started his career as the first software engineer at Yahoo Germany. He runs #geomob, the London meetup of location based service developers. Ed lives in Barcelona with his wife and two children. You can find Ed on LinkedIn, Twitter, or on his personal website:

Show Notes

Don’t miss some of this episode’s memorable moments:

2:32 – Meet Ed Freyfogle, co-founder of OpenCage Data, who tells us a little bit about OpenCage.

5:25 – Ed explains the difference between open and closed data and talks more about the value of open data for enterprises.

13:01 – Ed and Chris discuss the build versus buy debate when it comes to open data and how enterprises can benefit from partnering with someone like OpenCage Data.

15:01 – Ed describes his journey into the space of open data and how he got involved in the geocoding community in London and Europe at large.

21:19 – Ed talks more about his opportunities to invest in the geocoding space as an angel investor.

22:43 – Chris and Ed chat about What 3 Words, a great example of how geocoding can solve business challenges.

20:50 – Ed discusses why simplicity and usability is important when developing a highly technical solution for customers.

32:44 – Ed gives his final piece of advice for people in IoT, geospacer, and other highly technical backgrounds.

34:35 – Chris wraps up the show, and Ed tells you where you can find him online.


“One question that comes up with open data is, particularly for larger companies, they say, well why can’t I just do this in-house? And you definitely can, but it requires expertise, time and effort, and someone on the team who really wants to understand what’s happening. And for a lot of companies, this is not a core competency.”

“One of the biggest benefits of open data is that the barrier to experimentation… is very low now. And anyone who has a cool idea, they can grab the data and they can get started and really build powerful things. The tools have gotten much simpler.”

“There’s all this complexity around open data and all the changes happening all the time. And we just simplified it for our customers. We provide one API, and we aggregate behind that. All kinds of different data sources…The customer doesn’t want to know how the sausage is made. They just want to eat.”

“We’re engineers, and we think it’s all about more features and more power and better battery life and more range. But the reality is that’s not true at all. What customers care about is solving their problem, and very often a good enough solution is good enough. And frankly, the perfect solution, the one that engineers want to create… it goes beyond what the customer wants or needs.”

Additional Resources

  • Learn more about OpenCage Geocoder here:
  • Get involved with #geomob, an event for London location based service developers.
  • Check out Ed’s site to see his portfolio and stay up-to-date with what he’s working on.
  • Take a look at the what3words website to learn more about this solution.

About Our Sponsor

First Things First is sponsored by Telit, a global provider of wireless connectivity modules, platforms, IoT operator services and professional services. Telit supports thousands of direct and indirect customers by enabling hundreds of millions of connected ‘things.’ With almost two decades of IoT innovation experience, Telit delivers secure, integrated end-to-end IoT solutions for many of the world’s largest brands, including enterprises, OEMs, system integrators, and service providers across industries.