The Disruption Agenda is a Nedbank CIB and Plug and Play Tech Centre initiative that brought 10 visionary startups from across the globe to South Africa to meet with top business leaders.
Introducing: What3Words – one of the Top 10 innovators that attended The Disruption Agenda
What3Words is the future of addresses and they’re helping everyone talk about everywhere.
The founder and CEO of What3Words, Chris Sheldrick, has always struggled with addresses. He had been running a music business for a decade, and it was exasperating when suppliers couldn’t find site entrances and bands couldn’t find their way from the hotel to their gigs. These frustrations led Chris on a journey to develop a simpler way of finding people. Together with mathematician friend Mohan Ganesalingam, Chris founded What3Words in 2013 in London, UK.
What3Words is the simplest way to talk about location. It has divided the whole world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3-word address. Now people can refer to any precise location, whether it is a delivery entrance, a picnic spot, or a drone landing point, using just three simple words.
UNAccording to Sheldrick, better addressing enhances customer experience, delivers business efficiency, drives growth and supports social and economic development. The fact that the What3Words algorithm takes complex GPS coordinates and converts them into unique 3-word addresses means that anyone can talk about anywhere with 3 simple words.
What3Words is especially useful where street addresses don’t exist and provides a level of specificity when they are not accurate enough, both of which are particularly relevant within the rural African context. The UN estimates that 4 billion people don’t have a proper address. This is an enormous barrier to economic prosperity because it limits these people from achieving basic tasks, like opening a bank account, registering a birth, or ensuring their name is on the electoral roll.
But now, What3Words allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to have an address.
Words are easier to remember and less prone to human error when communicating locations. The What3Words system is fixed and will never change, so it provides a consistent location language across industries and countries.
What3Words is available in 26 languages with more in the process of being added to their repertoire. Unique 3-word addresses are already being used by over 650 businesses, government organisations and NGOs in over 170 countries. In South Africa, the team behind What3Words is helping ambulances find pregnant women in remote areas. And, social workers use the 3-word addresses to visit vulnerable families in rural areas who don’t have a traditional address.
At the other end of the economic scale, customers of the iStore can now use their 3-word address for precision delivery of their favourite Apple products, and foodies can find South Africa’s Top 500 Restaurants in the latest edition of EatOut magazine with a 3-word address.
Sheldrick explains the impact of providing addresses to those who’ve gone without: “Giving people everywhere in the world a simple 3-word address means that, finally, the billions of people that previously lived without an address are now on the map and can easily access all kinds of services for the first time. That’s no small feat, and that’s why our goal is to become a global standard for location communication.”
What3Words is growing fast and now has over 70 employees across three offices in London, Johannesburg and Ulaanbaatar.
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