A Look at What’s Next for CalTopo Teams
We are committed to continuing to grow our team and first responder functionality. Read on to hear from CalTopo founder Matt Jacobs about where team accounts are headed next.
The ground had been bare dirt just two weeks earlier, but by Dec 23, Tahoe was entrained in a series of winter storms. Fluctuating snow levels and ice formation had brought down trees all over the neighborhood, and I had just recovered from a 5-day power outage when the 7:30pm page went out for a missing 78-year-old male with dementia. I gathered my gear, spent a few minutes reading to my 4-year-old son – some things are difficult to negotiate away even in the face of an emergency – and was out the door.
At the far side of a condo complex, amongst kids’ snow forts and sled tracks, my teammate Kyle found a lone set of tracks in the snow. Instead of looping back like we expected, they proceeded out towards Martis Valley, and 40 minutes later we caught up to our missing person, cold, wet and immobilized by night. The initial urban search had given way to a backcountry winter environment that we were minimally equipped for, but a team of enthusiastic skiers was hot on our tail to pack down a route, and a snowmobile soon followed to get him the rest of the way to the ambulance. Driving home with a big smile under a moonless midnight sky, I texted my wife: “definitely saved a life today”. It had been a bumpy departure and I wanted her to know the cost had been worth it.
I’m sharing this story because for me personally and CalTopo as an organization, purpose matters. And although it matters, that purpose doesn’t always translate well to our daily tasks, the myriad moving parts needed to support a successful organization. On the search, all we did was follow some tracks through the snow – nothing particularly special. Supporting our ability to even be in that position was a long series of even-less-exciting support tasks. Purpose doesn’t change the oil in the team truck.
Much of what goes on behind the scenes at CalTopo is similarly mundane. Everyone who works here does so because they care about the product and believe in the mission. Still, the work is work, much like anywhere else. Over time, people leave and cultures change – across a long enough time horizon, will CalTopo remain a special place? And will our culture continue to carry the day for some of our user communities, if cold hard economics can’t?
I don’t know what the future will bring, but CalTopo can trace its origins directly to mapping issues on a large search in the Bay Area, and it’s important for me to ensure that community remains a core part of our user base. I also know that for all the agonizing it’s caused us, every time we’ve traded a bit of affordability in exchange for a better product, it’s proven to be the right decision. Five years ago we had just launched team accounts and had not yet started developing the app, and today remote planning and live tracking are critical to many teams’ workflows. I’d like our next five years to be at least as impactful as our last.
So, to get to the point: I’m excited to announce that we plan to invest more heavily in team and first responder functionality. In doing so our goal is to provide a higher quality product, grow adoption outside of the SAR community and ensure the longevity of those solutions even in the face of significant change within the company.
As a first step in that direction, we have already rolled out two new team-based collaboration features. First, all team accounts now support sub-teams, which give you finer-grained controls over how to structure your team. Want your specialty teams to have their own place to store maps? Sub-teams have you covered. Second, we are launching shared workspaces, which make map sharing between teams seamless. Commonly work with a neighboring agency or two? Setup a shared workspace with them and you can automatically share maps with each other. These are both live now, and more details will be coming soon.
CalTopo’s team account pricing has not changed since its initial rollout in 2017. Since then, we’ve learned some important lessons about our pricing model. There was, and continues to be, confusion around whether a 25 person account applies to teams of up to 25 people, or teams that want to cherry-pick 25 members. We’ve also struggled with the pricing cliff in between large size buckets, and with how to adapt our discounted volunteer SAR pricing to other use cases, such as hybrid paid / volunteer organizations.
So along with our renewed focus, we’re revising our team pricing model to be based on your choice of either organization size or population served, and not a self-selected size. We’re also adding a new, partial discount for organizations with a mix of volunteer and paid employees. And finally, team account signups are no longer self-serve: you’ll need to contact support and request a quote, so that we can ensure team sizes and discounts are appropriately matched to organization size and composition.
While we will eventually need to migrate existing team accounts to the new pricing model, we do not have any immediate plans to do so. At the moment, the restructured pricing will only apply to new accounts, or existing accounts that wish to change their team size. Because of the smaller size increments, pricing for organizations just over a size break (e.g. 101 members) will see effectively no change, with the biggest increases happening for organizations using almost all of their available size (e.g. 99 members). If you’re a paid agency that has signed up for a team account in the past few months, you’re likely already on the new model and won’t see a change.
I’m excited about our renewed focus on team functionality, and looking forward to the next few years being as impactful as the last.
Matt and team,
Thanks for all you do to keep this amazing product available to SAR teams who operate on limited budgets. Many of the mixed paid and volunteer agency budgets in rural areas are still quite slim. SARTopo has been an absolute game-changer in the world of SAR and all-hazards incident management for small agencies and I’m sure there’s a lot of money that could be made if you were to focus on just the large agencies. Thanks for keeping your hearts in SAR and allowing everyone to have access to your product.
-Nick Vora, Union County, OR
Thanks for the kind words, Nick. Our roots are in the search and rescue world and we’re proud to continue to support SAR and other first responder agencies do the important work you all do!