The CEO of what3words talks with us about delivering post in Mongolia, fighting wastefulness, and what it takes to succeed.
In some situations, you can use only a word to describe a destination. You can say you’ve vacationed in Italy, for example, or that you’re attending the conference in Berlin. But in supply chain and logistics, one word will never suffice, which is why we have addresses.
The problem is that addresses often don’t suffice either. And coordinates, even though they are significantly more precise than addresses, are just strings of numbers – something people would struggle with if they had to explain it to a delivery service. But if you’d find a way to use the precision of coordinates with the convenience of addresses, you’d get what3words – a software solution which pairs every three square meters on the planet with a unique combination of three words.
“A lot of people tell us when they’re around Ulan Bator that they will be going to a cafe and they will see a three-word sign in the window,” Chris explained, “which is a big piece of work which was done a couple of years ago to sort of ingrain what3words into the fabric of society.”
Mongolia’s postal service was what3words’ first deal. Today, their service is so prevalent and present that even the Lonely Planet guide makes note of it.
Getting a pop culture status aside, what3words’ biggest draw is the fact that it can save supply chain and logistics companies serious money.
“Between 20 and 40%,” according to Chris, “depending on what the scenario is, that you can knock off just because people are going to the wrong place.” He also added it’s often “happening in the last mile or two where they think they’re near, but actually just not being able to locate the front door.”
It’s a mundane problem that adds up to a lot of wasted money, and it can happen to anyone, anywhere. As a company that offers solutions to such widespread problems, what3words also requires a certain profile of people for its team members.
“I think just by the nature of what we are, which we’re a global-first company, our strategy has always been to be active in a lot of parts of the world simultaneously,” said Chris. “And therefore, our team is constructed of a lot of people who are very worldly in nature.”
As for the hard skills, what3words is currently very much interested in voice search. As a company that provides solutions to specific problems, it only makes sense that it would require serious skills to do the serious work of coding for voice. But as an entrepreneur, Chris would advise people to pick a mission and believe in it.
“It’s just about believing in what you’re doing and finding the ways to standardize things which have felt new,” he said. “And then everybody looks back on they go ‘well, of course.’” Tenacity and perseverance until acceptance.
Check out the full interview with Chris Sheldrick here.