Exclusive: Amazon buys 3D mapping startup UpNext

It looks like Amazon (s amzn) is building up its presence in the mapping business. The tech giant today closed a deal to acquire 3D mapping startup UpNext, GigaOM has learned.
For Amazon, which doesn’t have a mapping service of its own, the acquisition seems to mark a move into new territory. To access maps on the Kindle Fire, users must download third-party Android apps or access online mapping services through the browser. The Kindle Fire doesn’t currently include a GPS radio but the UpNext acquisition, which would help Amazon offer native mapping capabilities, potentially points to a more robust Kindle Fire in the future, as well as an Amazon smartphone.
Founded in 2007 by high school friends Raj Advani, Vik Advani, Robin Har and Danny Moon, New York-based UpNext offers interactive, detailed three-dimensional maps of cities and venues. The four co-founders mostly bootstrapped the company until March 2011, when they raised $500,000. The company’s investors include Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital, David Cohen’s Bullet Time Ventures, David Tisch’s Box Group and Paul Sethi’s PKS Capital. UpNext and Amazon did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
While the price of the acquisition is undisclosed, we’ve heard that investors are getting a 5x return on the investment from 16 months ago. As part of the deal, the four-person company will be shipping off to Seattle to lead the company’s core mapping effort, according to a source familiar with the matter.
UpNext, which had apparently been pursued by other major tech companies, has launched apps for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices. It covers 50 cities nationwide, and, for 23 cities, it offers enhanced details. It’s also partnered with the NFL to develop Super Bowl guides that include 3D maps of the stadium and surrounding area. Through the apps, users can virtually drop down onto city streets and tap their way to more information about buildings and different views of the area. The dynamic maps also provide point to point directions.