Carnegie Mellon University

Sam Hashemi, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Felt

Saving Lives with Better Maps

Enabling experts to solve complex problems using creative tools is the kind of human-computer interaction problem Sam Hashemi (SCS 2008, DC 2008) loves to solve.

He’s already done it once, as the CEO and co-founder of Remix, a platform for transportation design now used by more than 500 cities worldwide. When Seattle, Washington, needed to make long-term plans for decades of investment in public transit, Remix enabled them to visualize routes and incorporate data about riders and how planned routes would be used.

After the company was acquired for $100 million in 2021, Sam turned his attention to a different, seemingly simpler, problem — making maps to drive decisions that rely on location data. To his surprise, he discovered the process was more involved than anticipated. He found he needed a geography degree, expert tools and endless hours to pull it off. So, he combined all the necessary tools and started Felt, a collaborative, online map-making tool.

“If you’re trying to use the Earth as your canvas and information as your paint, there’s no way to do that today,” Sam says. “We want to make it easier to make a map, add data, draw on top of it and share it with your community or the people you work with.”

Felt is in early access right now, exploring a wide range of use cases, especially those related to climate change.

“Every industry has to suddenly deal with the changing Earth and think about, ‘What do I do as the skies get filled with smoke, and the fire gets closer to me?” he says.

He describes the challenges of fighting a wildfire. When predicting its path, data is analyzed and placed in the context of a map, informing plans to evacuate homes and deploy firefighters. Speeding up that process by reducing steps and integrating data with maps will save lives.

“With Felt, we want to enable anyone to make a map,” Sam says.

Story by Elizabeth Speed