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Maggie McCullough: ‘We believe in the power of data to create change’

By January 6, 2015 One Comment

Maggie McCullough is the president and director of PolicyMap.

Describe what you do in one sentence: We believe in the power of data to create change in communities and markets, and to that end we have created the Web’s largest place-based data library and make it available in easy-to-use maps, tables, reports and analytic tools.

Age: 49

Degree, school: Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Joseph’s University; master’s in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Location: Philadelphia

Social media: LinkedIn, Twitter

maggie mccullough

Maggie McCullough with her dog

What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?

I love fixing up our old house (this is our third fixer-upper). It satisfies the need for immediate gratification (which you don’t get every day building a business), and I love the craft of a renovation project. My grandfather was a carpenter and built a few houses at the turn of the century, so I guess it is in my blood.

What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why? 

“1984.” It seemed so outrageous at the time!

Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?

My dad was a civil engineer by day and a basement inventor by night. There were always parts of something being built in our house. In the ’70s, he patented a parking meter that used laser beam technology. I often wish we had worked together so I could have helped him take his parking meter to market.

How’d you come up with the idea for your startup?

I was doing research for state and local governments and was desperately trying to figure out how to incorporate some data and maps as a part of my research. But the desktop mapping software was hard to learn. I even took a course and still had trouble.

It just seemed that the data and maps should be available on the Web (not locked in someone’s desktop) and that making maps should be as simple as anything else you do on the Web (like shopping!); I wanted it to be simple.

Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company.

Every night when I go to sleep, I worry about the future of our company. I’ve been doing that every night for the last seven years!

How did you bounce back?

I get up and go back work.

maggie mccullough cooking

Maggie McCullough: “I like to have fun with cooking.”

What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since launching and why?

Our biggest victory has really been the ability to consistently realize a series of small victories over time and continually improve upon our product. We released a contemporary and simpler new user interface for our online mapping tool; we’ve entered additional markets (like university libraries) in need of online mapping products; we’ve expanded our data warehouse to include a host of new indicators (like health data, tax data and more); and we’ve grown our data and tech teams.

What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?

When Apple acquired our tech partner, Placebase, I thought we were going to lose all of our developers — and you can’t run a Web business without amazing developers. But a number of them stayed in order to continue working on PolicyMap. I couldn’t believe it. We got through that because we have an extremely committed group of people behind PolicyMap.

What puzzles you most about the industry?

The real estate industry has understood the value of maps and data on maps for a very long time. A great map is actually central to most real estate-related websites now. I can’t understand why it is taking so long for other industries to grasp that value.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business since launching your company?

You need a grounded vision, amazing people and patient capital. (And everything takes longer than you think it will.)

What’s the most overrated real estate technology?

Valuation models.

How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?

They are going to have to learn more and more nuances about the neighborhoods in which they are selling. Stuff you can’t find online. And they are going to be expected to know everything about the area they are selling in.

What motivates you more: power or money?

Closing a new deal or sale of a PolicyMap product is extremely motivating for me, so I suppose it is a combination of power and money that motivates.

What is your biggest professional fear?


What is your biggest personal fear?


Who do you respect most in the industry?

I admire most of the companies that are looking for opportunities to partner, resell and work cooperatively instead of always wanting to compete with each other.

Want to participate in our real estate leaders profile series? Email!

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