By Jessie Woldstad
The American Geographical Society recently had the opportunity to meet with Keith J. Masback, Principal Consultant of Plum Run, LLC, a boutique consulting firm specializing in supporting early-stage startups operating in geospatial intelligence and related fields. Since 2019, Plum Run has been committed to providing advisory services across a broad array of topics, including: approaches to seeking startup capital, product-market fit, business-to-business partnerships, and strategic communications and marketing to a diverse array of innovative clients interested in utilizing geospatial data and technologies.
With over 30 years of experience in his field, Masback is a leading voice in the geospatial intelligence community. When asked about how Plum Run came to be, he stated that his interest was in finding high-performing teams developing innovative technologies and helping them unlock the broadest possible set of opportunities. While he often finds himself assisting companies in navigating the government acquisition process, he has positioned Plum Run to support startups in a far broader set of business pursuits. Masback notes that Plum Run is at its best when working as part of virtual teams with other small companies and consultants, each bringing specific areas of expertise to the table.
At the forefront of Plum Run’s mission is to provide expertise on geospatial intelligence, or “GEOINT.” According to Masback, GEOINT exists at the intersection of four areas: remote sensing, or collecting data about an area through the use of sensors on phones, drones, aircraft, aerostats, or satellites; geospatial and location data and information, spanning from undersea to the littoral to land, air, and aerospace as well as physical geography, political geography, and human geography; data analytics, or making sense of the raw data collected; and data visualization, which affords the ability to effectively communicate analytic results to a broader audience. All of this is truly meaningful when it’s applied to a problem or challenge, enabling people to make decisions and/or take actions.
Plum Run’s focus on geospatial intelligence is uniquely timely given the rapid expansion of GEOINT’s relevance in the commercial and consumer marketplaces thanks to the expansion of related technologies and the massive increase in the availability of myriad types of location data. GEOINT applications are increasingly diverse, including calculating the fastest delivery routes, optimizing agricultural resources, and guiding autonomous vehicles—to name a few.
When asked why Plum Run supports the work of the AGS, Masback (an AGS Councilor and Fellow) said, “It’s all part of giving back. No matter our chosen professions, as we are afforded increased opportunities, I believe we have an inherent responsibility to support those who will come behind us. AGS has a proud history of supporting and promoting educational activities and scholarship, and so it’s the perfect way for Plum Run to give back corporately.”
In sum, Plum Run, LLC is positioned right in the middle of an incredibly exciting time as relates to geospatial technologies, with current advancements affording us to apply geographical thought and theory in ways that were historically not possible. Masback extols: “This is the geospatial moment, and that’s absolutely invigorating with respect to both Plum Run and to AGS!”