With Pokémon GO setting records in the world of gaming in a couple of weeks after its release, its mastermind John Hanke is also receiving the greatest glory. After all, John Hanke is the man behind this eminent breakthrough and deserves all the appreciation and popularity. There is much to learn and be inspired from him.

John Hanke, Google director in charge of Google Earth and Google Maps.
Here we have listed top 10 things you should know about John Hanke:
1. Humble childhood

John Hanke grew up in Cross Plains, an isolated town in West Texas. Therefore he used to daydream about other places. He says like a lot of people who grew up in small towns like him, he couldn’t wait to see the wider world. He always carried the desire to explore the world. The quintessential quote I can remember in this context is: “The harder the struggle, the sweeter the victory”. John Hanke deserves all this glory. A real inspiration for us.

2. Educational background

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He received his bachelor’s degree (Plan II Honors) from the University of Texas, Austin.

University of Texas Austin campus at sunset-dusk - aerial view

While a student at UT he chaired the Distinguished Speakers Committee and brought speakers Jeane Kirkpatrick, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Dith Pran, and others to lecture on campus. He received his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley in 1996. Prior to business school, he worked in foreign affairs for the US Government in Washington, DC, and  Thus he started exhibiting the determination and leadership skills, which led him to be a prodigy he is today.

3. First break

Upon Graduation, he subsequently helped start two successful entertainment software companies, Archetype Interactive and Big Network.


John Hanke’s journey began in 1996 where he co-created one of the first MMOs called “Meridian 59”.He then sold it to 3DO.  He was just a student at the time with gaming as his passion.


4.  Story behind the name ‘Niantic’

John Hanke shared the story behind naming the American software development company based in San Francisco, California as Niantic, Inc.


Niantic was a whale ship that brought fortune-seekers to Yerba Buena later renamed San Francisco during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Run aground and converted into a store ship and hotel, she was a prominent landmark in the booming city for several years. Niantic and few other ships came up during the gold rush and through a variety of circumstances got dragged on shore. Over the years, San Francisco was basically just built over these ships.  John Hanke further said in an interview:” You could stand on top of them now, and you wouldn’t know it. So it’s this idea that there’s stuff about the world that’s really cool but even though it’s on the Internet, it’s hard to know when you’re actually there. It’s hard to stop every 10 feet and do a Google search to try and find stuff about what’s in front of you”.

5. His Obsession with maps and locations

About his obsession with maps and locations, John Hanke said that the thinks the world to be a very interesting place and for him it’s fundamental to explore the world. He said that it makes life interesting and also that he has always dreamed of seeking the outer world. He shared that as a parent, the idea of appreciating what’s in front of him is important and that’s why many people are figuring out ways to make the world better.


In 2004, Google bought  Keyhole which eventually turned into Google Earth, and the idea for GPS-based games was born.


6.  Reason for giving up the role of the product leader for all things “Geo”

When asked in an interview about why he gave up the role of product leader for all things “Geo” from 2004 to 2010,  John Hanke stated: “At the end of that time period it went from being very much a start-up with Keyhole with a few dozen people inside Google to something that was hundreds of people spread all around the world. At the same time, there were some things related to maps that I wanted to do, that didn’t really fit in terms of the mainstream [company] focus. So after six years I was ready to clear the slate and start fresh and go build another product”.

pokemon go john hanke tomatoheart


7. What inspired him to develop Field Trip: The app which predicts what you want to know on the go

The inspiration for Field Trip is very directly related to his obsession with maps and experience with Google Maps and Earth.


He told in an interview:” as we started thinking about Geo on a mobile device, one thing that intrigued me was: How do you make these cool layers of information available on mobile, so that in addition to the basic functions of getting from A to B, of driving directions and restaurant reviews, what about all this other information about the world? The more we saw it as a problem, the more it became clear that a lot of times you don’t actually need the map in mobile.

What would be interesting would be to take those layers of information and put them in front of you at the point in time when you’re at that specific location in the world. So it all kind of led to this idea where we could build up these layers of info that would be really useful and interesting in terms of informing you about the world around you and just drop it in front you at the right time as you’re walking or driving.”

8. His notion of augmented reality

John Hanke has led to the genesis of augmented reality in an entire new tangent where everyone can access it easily. He aspires to make the whole world like that.


He further adds: “Again, it comes back to it thinking about what’s interesting about the world. What’s worth noting?  And that led us down the path of history and historical markets. Field Trip has a deep collection of local history through a partnership with Arcadia. We want to help people learn. When you think about a museum, you have annotations on each exhibit, so the notion was, ‘Let’s make the whole world like that.’ This lets you see beneath the surface to tell you something interesting that you might not know”.


9. It took John Hanke a colossal 20 years to create Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go’s whopping overnight success has an enormous amount of meticulous planning, perseverance and out of the box thinking which he weighed in exact proportions over the time of 20 years to gift the lovers of gaming with the biggest breakthrough Pokémon Go.

10. Various epochs in the trajectory of John Hanke’s success
john hanke bridge
  • 1996: John co-created the very first MMO called ‘Meridian 59’.
  • 2000: John launched Keyhole.
  • 2004: Google bought Keyhole, which was later modified into what we now know as ‘Google Earth’ with the help of John.
  • 2004 – 2010: John led the Google Geo team towards building Google Maps and Google Street View.
  • 2010: Funded by Google, John launched start-up called Niantic Labs to create a game layer on maps.
  • 2012: Niantic’s first Geo-based MMO ‘Ingress’ was launched by John.
  • 2014: On the April Fools’ Day, users could were amused by the Pokémon creatures on the Google Maps. This was done with the collaboration of Google with the Pokémon team. It was the time when John aspired to turn this wonderful idea into a real game.
  • Dec 2015- Feb 2016: John created a team of 40+ to launch Pokémon Go. During this period he managed to raise $25 million from Google, Nintendo, the Pokémon Company and some other investors.
  • July 6, 2016: It was finally the Show time! John enthralled the world of gaming enthusiasts with the biggest breakthrough of all times.

Pokémon Go is setting illustrious records right in the first week of its launch which include:

10 million+ downloads in the first week which surpassed  Twitter in daily active users, and with higher average user time than Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram & WhatsApp.

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