89. what3words

The global mapping start-up that’s divided the world into a grid of 57 trillion squares, each with a unique three-word address

Founders: Chris Sheldrick and Jack Waley-Cohen
Founded: March 2013 (Launched July 2013)
Website: www.what3words.com

During his 10 years organising live music events, Chris Sheldrick found himself constantly frustrated at the difficulties of getting people to be in the right place at the right time. This experience served as the inspiration for his truly unique proposition: a location reference platform that divides the world into a grid of 57 trillion three metre by three metre squares, where each square has a unique, three word address.

Alongside Jack Waley-Cohen, Sheldrick labeled the entire planet using 40,000 different words – what3words was born. Essentially a tiny piece of code, what3words plugs into the existing apps and services of a business, with the company charging for API calls and for functionality like auto suggest and offline mode. For individuals to use on the website or as an app, the platform is completely free. What’s more, humanitarian and not-for-profit organisations are entitled to a range of free discounted usage plans. So far, logistics firms, navigation apps, travel guides and non-government organisations across 170 countries are using what3words, including UN disaster recovery app Navmii and geographic information software company Esri.

Having closed a $3.5m funding round last November, the company is currently working on voice recognition software and is in discussions with a number of governments and national postal services. With an estimated 75% of the world suffering from inadequate addressing systems (and the rest frequently plagued with problems) what3words is in prime position to take on an enormous potential market.

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