Chris Sheldrick, what3words Founder, Turns Navigation Struggle Into Entrepreneurial Success
January 22, 2020 | Abree Murch
what3words has segmented the entire world into a grid of 57 trillion 10-foot squares and assigned each a unique three-word address. We love how they’ve solved a worldwide geolocation problem with a brilliantly simple solution for navigation, events, emergency, and more. Backed by major global players like Daimler, Subaru, Intel, and Sony, our investment in what3words has the potential for tremendous upside and has emerged as one of AVG’s strongest Syndications to date.
From Music Producer to Modern Mapmaker
Like many entrepreneurs, Chris Sheldrick began his journey with a very specific problem.
Working in the music industry, managing live acts and producing events internationally, Sheldrick routinely encountered difficulties communicating location. He’d get lost, equipment would be delivered to the wrong place, performers would show up at the wrong gig, etc. To avoid dealing with inconsistent and inaccurate addresses, Sheldrick tried relying on GPS coordinates, but the long strings of numbers were unwieldy and impractical.
Frustrated by the lack of reliable addressing, Sheldrick teamed up with his friend Mohan Ganesalingam, a mathematician, and Jack Waley-Cohen, a friend with a background in translation, to come up with a way to describe location that would be as precise as latitude and longitude, but more concise and easier to use. Five years later, the product of their collaboration, what3words, is used by millions of people across the world.
The concept behind the app is surprisingly simple. The what3words team has built a system that converts latitude/longitude coordinates into 3-word sequences, segmenting the entire world into a grid of 57 trillion three-meter (10-foot) squares, each assigned a unique three-word address.
For example, the middle of AVG’s Manchester headquarters is ///crown.clear.league, whereas the GPS coordinates are 42.989565, 71.463300 – or 42°59’22.2″N 71°27’47.7″W, whichever you prefer.
what3words’s system is both unique and proprietary. Unlike Google and other map providers, it does not need to pay to buy addresses from each of the world’s governments every year, so it can provide more accurate information, in a simpler, more user-friendly way, at a lower cost.
Finding a Way
Today, everyone can use 3 word addresses to find, share and describe places faster and more easily—from festival-goers and famous authors, to delivery drivers and emergency services. As we move toward a more autonomous future, being able to accurately and unambiguously tell your car where to drive or where your drone delivery should go will be essential. With today’s technology, a street address spoken to a machine is accurate 34% of the time. A what3words address is interpreted correctly 97% of the time, and what it means is precise and unambiguous.
AVG participated in what3words’ 2019 Series C round of financing alongside Daimler, Sony, Fraser McCombs, Intel Capital, and SAIC Technologies. AVG has been watching what3words for a few years, and it’s been exciting to witness the mainstream growth of this company as more applications for their innovations become apparent. what3words is setting a new standard for communicating location between humans, as well as between humans and machines. Use for this tech is only limited by the imagination, and we think what3words is just getting started.