UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


The Whole World is Mike Pilon’s (MBA ’86) Muse


The whole world is Mike Pilon’s muse. Nothing else could account for the 4 1/2 million pages of content on the website Pilon (MBA ’86) has developed with information on nearly any topic imaginable.

People go to MapMuse Inc. (www.mapmuse.com), the interactive mapping website Pilon started in 2000, to satisfy their curiosities about everything, from places to wind surf and find biodiesel fuel to locations of hemp clothing stores. MapMuse even satisfies curiosities about, well, curiosities, such as wicker repair, nudist colonies and alpaca farms.

Learning about special interests and other subject matter is part of Pilon’s reward. “Getting that content out and having it used, it’s a fun process. There are these little niche interests I didn’t know existed,” he says. More than 1.3 million visitors a month search for the random and the routine on MapMuse, which focuses on general information, real estate and iPhone applications.

MapMuse is different from other mapping systems because users can see many more points on a single map, and they can review services and add information. Users may overlap their interests by finding, for example, bed-and-breakfasts and art museums in a city on the same map.

Pilon focuses on analyzing and consolidating data from multiple sources and putting it on the website and works on search engine optimization. His handful of employees work virtually.

MapMuse includes categories of interests and brands, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and IMAX theaters. “The more you can niche it, the more you can come up high in search results,” Pilon, 50, says. “The more pages we add, the more search engines find it, and the more revenue we get.”

A new revenue stream for MapMuse is iPhone applications Pilon created. One application is TV Diner, which provides maps for restaurants featured on TV shows, including “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Network and “Man v. Food” on Travel Channel.

After he earned his MBA, long before iPhones were the craze, Pilon was a management consultant at Arthur D. Little in the 1980s and ‘90s. He worked with a lot of geographic information systems, or GIS, for the U.S. Postal Service and other clients.

That’s how he conceived of MapMuse. “Working with mapping systems, I realized with the Internet out there that there was a better way to find places of interest than text-based searches,” Pilon says. “I wanted to start a business where you could find all the golf courses somewhere, all the book clubs somewhere or whatever you’re looking for. I’ve always been entrepreneurial.”

As with other successful Internet entrepreneurs, Pilon knows how to navigate a rapidly-changing field. He expanded MapMuse to serve the real estate market by integrating his mapping services into firms’ websites.

That reflects a lesson Pilon has learned about advancing in a career. “A lot of times when you don’t know something, don’t over-think it, just do it. Even with all your thinking, you may not make the right decision. If you just do it, you get feedback and can adjust what you’re doing,” he says. “Follow your gut, use your talents and pursue it.”