Digital map creates a searchable Seattle
What: LiveVillage, a new searchable digital map of Seattle that includes events.
Who created it: Mike Safoutin, chief executive of Villageware, a two-person Seattle software company that developed the Lost in Seattle online map.
How it works: LiveVillage is a desktop application that Safoutin describes as "the intersection of time and place," a kind of interactive events guide. The application combines geographic data and software that changes the appearance of shops if they are open or closed. New event content is added to this, such as performance schedules or special sales. Users get updated information sent to their maps automatically whenever they are connected to the Internet. The map tells not only where something is located, but what's going on there at a particular time.
Pounding the pavement: Safoutin founded Villageware in 1999. He hired surveyors and spent some serious shoe leather mapping out 100 square miles of Seattle, including more than 10,000 shops and 18,000 buildings, for the Lost in Seattle project. In 2004, after finishing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington, he began working full time on LiveVillage.
Attracting local retailers: Safoutin hopes to get local retailers to use LiveVillage as a central place to publicize events. He's marketing mostly to small businesses and plans to charge a monthly membership fee of around $10. Most revenue would come from online advertising.
Background: Safoutin, 42, was an engineer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency working on technology for hybrid cars. Associate Developer Michelle Garofano, 35, has a background in architecture. Safoutin has financed LiveVillage himself but is planning to look for investors to expand a network of sites around the country.
Searching vs. discovering: Search engines are great for finding what you're looking for. But Safoutin wants people to be able to browse a whole landscape and discover new things. "We want this to act like a window on the world," he said.
Where to find it: LiveVillage is to be available on CDs through participating stores or for download on Aug. 15. For information: www.livevillage.com.
— Kristi Heim
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company