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Addressing platform what3words closes $8.5M Series B led by logistics firm Aramex

TechCrunch TechCrunch 29/06/2016 Natasha Lomas

London-based addressing platform startup, what3words, which has created a universal postcode/zip code alternative aimed at simplifying location sharing, has taken in new funding round led by logistics company Aramex.

Its lead investor is intending to use the system in its ecommerce fulfilment operations across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. And the Series B funding will in part go towards supporting the launch of an Arabic version of its addressing system.

The $8.5 million Series B round also included investment from existing investors Intel Capital, with UK funds Force Over Mass Capital and Mustard Seed also participating. The startup last raised in November 2015 when it closed a $3.5 million Series A. It’s now raised some $13.5 million to date.

what3words’ core idea was to replace zipcodes/postcodes with a universal and more accurate alternative by carving the global map up into trillions of 3m x 3m squares and assigning each a unique string of three words (hence its name).

So instead of an easily confused, difficult to memorize string of letters and numbers or numbers, addressing what3words style looks more like this: rocket.talents.pans. It also has multiple versions of the system for different languages — with support for 10 languages at this point.

As well as promising to improve location accuracy and increase delivery logistics efficiency, the big opportunity the startup has stumbled upon is offering location certainty in parts of the world where there is none, or far less, noting for example on its website that: “Around 75% of the world suffers from inconsistent, complicated, poor or no addressing systems. In total 4 billion people around the world don’t have an address.”

Back in May Mongolia’s state-owned postal delivery service Mongol Post adopted what3words as a national addressing standard, given its lack of a consistent addressing system. The country has some three million citizens, almost a third of whom are nomadic, roaming an area of more than 1.5 million square kilometres — making it a near perfect fit for what3words’ reworked location mapping.

The startup’s initial attempts to monetize their big idea focused on trying to sell single word location options to people who might want a custom location badge. The logistics optimization use-case is clearly a far larger and more appropriate opportunity.

It takes revenue now by licensing three word addresses to latitude and longitude conversion tools, delivery/courier and logistics software providers, noting that in the past few months logistics software provider Blackbay, address verification platform Allies, and a supplier of Ireland’s new Eircode system AutoAddress, have all integrated its tech to both boost efficiency and expand their range of customer delivery points.

It also touts having helped UK firm Direct Today Couriers reduce the number of failed deliveries by 83 per cent.

The startup says other plans for the new investment including launching a voice recognition product in the smartphone, wearables and automotive sectors — allowing for location sharing to be verbal to further increase efficiencies.

And it’s planning to develop the addressing system in several Asian languages. Growing its team and further global expansion are also on the cards.

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