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Michelle Tan: Democratizing Geospatial Data for Businesses

Michelle Tan: Democratizing Geospatial Data for Businesses

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Michelle Tan, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Unearth AI. Let’s learn what’s happening at Unearth AI and how Michelle is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Michelle, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Unearth AI?

Michelle: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Unearth is a location analytics and mapping platform powered by AI. We help businesses and organizations to use location data and mapping to better understand the world and their work, and make better decisions.

Spiffy: Interesting, what motivates you to do it?

Michelle: My co-founder, Nancy, and I worked with autonomous vehicles and real estate, respectively. We saw first hand that it's very difficult for people to analyze location data if they don't have a data science or geographic information systems background. We want to lower the barrier to work with data, so people can make better decisions in the physical world, like they do with digital products. This would make our communities a better place to work, commute, and live in.

Spiffy: Can you share an example of the impact of your work?

Michelle: As an example, we work with small family-owned businesses—that can't afford to hire data scientists—to use data to choose where to open a restaurant or beauty salon. This helps them to understand where their customers are, where there are highly trafficked areas, so they can make their businesses more successful and sustainable.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?

Michelle: We recently launched a new product called Unearth Lite that allows people to use natural language to find locations on a map. You can ask things like, "Where are all the Starbucks in the U.S.?" This is the easiest way to find locations for anyone that wants to open a business, find their customers, or understand competition in an area. You can try it out too on our website.

Spiffy: Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for speaking with me today, Michelle—it’s been an honor!

Michelle Tan is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Unearth AI. She spent most of her career at the intersection of real estate and technology, working at WeWork and Culdesac to help build co-working spaces and walkable neighborhoods. She grew up in Beijing and graduated from Columbia University. (Nominated by Unshackled Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 10, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.