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Will Cadell - GIS: Escaping the Enterprise

Updated: Mar 30


Unlock the mysteries of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with Will Cadell's refreshing approach to simplifying complexity. Rather than drowning in technical jargon, Will puts it simply: "I put maps on the internet." Join his journey from founding Sparkgeo to navigating the tech landscape with resilience and adaptability. Explore the profound impact of geography on our lives and join hands in shaping a better tomorrow. Dive into Will's insights and connect with him across various platforms to continue the adventure. With Will as your guide, the journey of exploration never ends. Embrace the unknown and discover what lies ahead in the world of GIS.

"I try to live a life without any kind of regret because the decisions that you make are the best decision that you can make in a certain situation... to be proven wrong is one thing but to have not tried is I think something else."

What is GIS? Will's Approach to Simplifying Complexity

In the vast landscape of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), explaining its intricacies can often lead to puzzled expressions. But fear not, because Will, with his knack for simplicity, has a refreshing take on this complex domain. Rather than drowning in technical jargon, Will opts for straightforward explanations. He puts it simply: "I put maps on the internet." It's an approachable statement that resonates with anyone familiar with maps and the online world. This straightforward mindset is what guided Will and his team at Sparkgeo when they embarked on their mission in 2010—to digitize maps in an era when Google Maps was just gaining traction.

Let's pause for a moment to appreciate how far GIS has come. Initially perceived as a cryptic language of the enterprise realm, it's now ubiquitous, thanks to pioneers like Will. Remember when GPS on phones was a luxury? Now, it's as common as checking the time. Will humorously refers to himself as a "walking GPS unit," relying on his watch and phone to navigate the world.

The evolution of GPS itself is remarkable—from its early days of unreliability to now predicting our routes home. It's as if machines understand us better than we understand ourselves!

So, what lies ahead for GIS? The future is excitingly uncertain, but with innovators like Will leading the charge, we're poised for even more remarkable advancements. These developments promise to simplify our lives and make navigating the world a breeze. In these dynamic times, we're ready for the journey ahead.

Background: Will's Inspirational Journey

In 2010, Will took a leap of faith and founded Sparkgeo, but his journey began long before. Armed with a degree in electronic engineering from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, Will initially explored electrical engineering. However, his passion for maps and the great outdoors led him to the captivating world of remote sensing.

The pivotal moment came when Will landed a role as a spatial modeler at the MCAU Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen, immersing himself in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). This hands-on experience reignited his love for coding and laid the groundwork for his future endeavors.

From there, Will's journey took him to municipal work, where he found unexpected fascination in addressing systems. However, the true adventure began with his move to Canada in 2005.

Starting with a forestry job in British Columbia, Will embraced the challenge, eventually rising to become a GIS and IT manager. Sensing new opportunities, he ventured to Silicon Valley, joining a nonprofit startup focused on rainforest preservation. This endeavor paved the way for Spark Geo, which has since flourished into a global enterprise with a dedicated team of 50.

Reflecting on his journey, Will emphasizes the importance of embracing risk and uncertainty as catalysts for growth. His story serves as a reminder that resilience and adaptability are key ingredients on the path to success.

If you find yourself at a crossroads in your own journey, take a page from Will's book—embrace the unknown, seize opportunities, and let resilience guide you toward your goals.

Unveiling the Passion for Geographical Exploration

In Will's narrative, geography transcends mere points and polygons; it's a symphony of gravity, features, and Earth's physicality orchestrating a dance of interconnectedness. Take flooding, for instance—a global challenge with cascading consequences. Will paints a vivid picture of how distant events trigger local turmoil, highlighting the profound interplay between geography and human life.

Yet, despite our vast geographic knowledge, solutions remain elusive. Will envisions a future where GIS's predictive capabilities revolutionize navigation and decision-making. Will muses on the potential applications of GIS—will it serve profit-driven endeavors, humanitarian causes, or a harmonious blend of both?

As we journey alongside Will, we're reminded of geography's profound impact on our lives and the endless opportunities it presents for shaping a better tomorrow. Let's join hands in unraveling the mysteries of geography, harnessing its power for collective progress.

Taking action on the geographic approach

Despite limited resources, Sparkgeo forges ahead, collaborating with insurance companies and conducting research projects that shed light on our planet's intricacies. From studying phenomena like fire, flood, and drought, Sparkgeo uncovers fascinating connections—like the interplay between extreme heat and flooding in British Columbia.

However, their mission transcends studying nature; it's about addressing societal challenges. From housing crises to famine management, Will envisions GIS as a linchpin in finding sustainable solutions.

But wielding such powerful tools comes with ethical considerations. Will stresses the importance of responsible usage and transparent intentions as technology evolves.

So, what's the next step? Will sees a landscape ripe with opportunities. With advancements in space technology, AI, and open data, modern geospatial analysis is more accessible and impactful than ever. It's no longer confined to experts; it's about democratizing GIS for everyone's benefit.

Tenacity: Will's Path to Success

Will's path was fraught with challenges—economic downturns, business setbacks—but he never lost sight of his goals. Instead of succumbing to defeat, he sought solutions, explored new territories, and adapted to changing landscapes.

One of Will's defining traits is his unwavering determination to overcome obstacles. During tough times, like when customers backed out of deals, Will pivoted, opening doors to new opportunities and avenues for growth.

Yet, Will's resilience goes beyond problem-solving. He remains committed to his values, his team, and his vision, weathering storms with humility and empathy. Adaptability and innovation are hallmarks of Will's journey. He embraces modernization and harnesses his niche, positioning his business for success in a competitive industry.

However, Will's story isn't just about triumphs; it's about learning from failures. He values each experience, recognizing their role in personal and professional growth.

As Will continues his journey, he invites us to embrace challenges with resilience, knowing that every setback is a stepping stone to greater heights.

Humility in Success: Lessons from Will's Journey

Surrounded by a talented team, Will remains grounded, acknowledging their expertise while cherishing his role as a constant learner. He marvels at the achievements of industry giants like Esri, recognizing their immense impact on the tech landscape.

But humility isn't just about acknowledging others' successes; it's about learning from mistakes. Will openly discusses past failures, embracing them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Throughout his journey, Will emphasizes the importance of understanding market dynamics and user needs. Success, he believes, hinges on finding the right balance between innovation and practicality.

Despite his achievements, Will remains optimistic and empathetic. He views competitors not as adversaries but as potential collaborators in a shared journey of progress.

Will's story is a testament to the power of humility in navigating the complexities of the tech world. As he continues his journey, he invites us to approach our endeavors with humility, resilience, and a commitment to continuous learning.

Connect with Will: Join the Adventure

As we conclude our journey with Will, the adventure doesn't have to end here. Stay connected and explore new horizons with Will through various platforms.

For insights and updates, visit, where Will's expertise shines. Engage in real-time discussions by following him on Twitter @geo_will. Connect professionally on LinkedIn for networking opportunities and industry insights. And for exclusive content and thought-provoking discussions, subscribe to his Substack at

But the adventure doesn't stop there. If you're venturing into the breathtaking landscapes of northern BC, Will has insider tips to enhance your experience. From skiing adventures to hiking trails, immerse yourself in nature's wonders and discover hidden gems with Will's guidance.

As we bid farewell, remember that the journey continues. Stay curious, stay connected, and keep exploring with Will by your side. Who knows what exciting adventures lie ahead?


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