Tuesday evening saw the Entrepreneurship host Chris Sheldrick, the co-founder and CEO of what3words. what3words is a free app and online platform that divides the entire world into 3×3 metre grids, revolutionising the way we see and use addresses.
Chris developed the idea in his former career in the music industry, frustrated that bands could not locate the venue for their performance because of wide ranging postcodes and complicated GPS coordinates. He remembered his life on a Hertfordshire farm where the postcode would direct a visitor to a field full of cows nowhere near the house. Postcodes, he explained, were made for the postal sorting offices, not for directions. If one were to redesign street names today, you wouldn’t have 14 different Church Roads in London, nor 632 Juarez Streets in Mexico City!
what3words aims to become ‘the standard’, and has already partnered with car manufacturers, food companies and travel guides to simplify directions. In the UK, around 100 different emergency services integrate What3words with their systems to ensure quicker response times, especially in the case of rural areas where injured hikers or mountain bikers require assistance in remote locations. From reporting potholes and fly tipping, to the future of drone delivery, What3words has also been used in inventive, and to its founders, unexpected ways. The Mongolian Government even uses what3Words to improve its postal service.
It’s the simplicity of the idea, but detail of the algorithm, that makes what3words so impressive. Longer, more syllabic words are gridded in the oceans, homophones removed, and over 45 languages available for every single 3×3 metre square. This is no mean task, for example, having to account for multiple regional dialects in China, but what3Words has succeeded in helping those in need, as well as enabling e-commerce and cutting time and costs for couriers.
Eton too will soon be providing what3words as addresses for their boarding houses. In the future, my Saturday night takeaway will be to ///points.text.patrol.
It was a fascinating and insightful talk for pupils at Eton and partner schools, would-be entrepreneurs who left with the central message of the importance of optimism and persistence.