Walkbase is an interesting Finnish startup to say the least. The company has evolved from an Åbo Akademi university project in 2009 to a full grown startup, currently building up business in the US. The university project resulted in 2 filed patents as well as 2 years of R&D. So what exactly is the company doing? It's using intelligent algorithms on data from random check-ins to define spaces. This means that they're able to determine users' location inside buildings in a completely new way, incredibly more accurately than other available technology out there can do (namely GPS). The company has 4 founders and is backed by senior advisors.
I had a brief interview with Tuomas Wuoti, the CEO of the company about the technology.
ArcticStartup (AS): Where are you at the moment with the company? Do you have a working solution or are you at the prototype phase?
Tuomas Wuoti (TW): Yes, we do have a working plugin for mobile applications and backend API that together bring indoor location context for mobile devices and applications. It currenlty only works on the Android platform. We will launch our offering during fall 2011 together with a select few launch partners from US.
AS: How are you financed at the moment? Who are your investors?
TW: We are self-financed, operating on a shoestring budget and eating noodles. We couldn't have made it this far without funding from the Foundation for Finnish Innovations (FFI) who first saw the potential in our technology and unique community-based approach. With this funding, we have been able to file a few patents and perform agile customer development activities in the US.
The FFI funding, though small, is exceptional instrument as it allows a pre-seed stage company perform something else than order plans and papers from consultants. It has taken us from pre-seed to seed stage, and now we are closing a seed round of 100k€ for valued advisors. We build developer tools for mobile application developers and plan to crowd-source indoor location data. This means that building a global community and perhaps even open source approach are at the core of our strategy. An angel with this experience would be highly valued.
AS: What has been the initial response from companies to your technology? Can you give some examples?
TW: The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, and over 300 people (app developers, companies, reporters etc.) have signed up via our web page and are waiting for us to launch. Of course it helps to be featured as one of the most interesting startups to follow in 2011 by Robert Scoble, so as such these signups don't tell the true level of commercial interest. We are currently working with a select few launch partners who are integrating our technology to their mobile app.
We will reveal our launch partners later this year when we launch. We are in talks with mobile gaming companies who wish to bridge real-life indoor locations with in-game incentives and game dynamics. In addition, there is stong interest amongst deal and advertising networks who wish to increase the relevancy and thus conversion rates of their mobile ads.
Our vision is to become the leading location context provider for mobile applications. The data we gather is anonymous, thus erasing user privacy concerns, but still has extremely high utility and commercial value.
Below is the video interview with Robert Scoble:
I also asked Tuomas Wouti how the company plans to make money. He didn't tell me straight out the business model, but he did outline that location-based mobile advertising is expected to bring in over $5B in revenue by 2016 according to key industry players, such as Google. Wouti thinks that this opportunity is not primarily driven by maps, but rather the phone sensing the location and automatically providing contextually relevant content.
I'd have to agree with Robert Scoble on Walkbase - it's definitely a company to watch closely.