Founded by gaming industry veteran Ian Hetherington in September 2010, eeGeo provides a 3D mapping platform that taps into big data, mobile technology and software-as-a-service to create geo-spatially accurate renditions of cities, countries and continents.
Hailing from Scotland's city of Dundee, a long way from London's Tech City, eeGeo currently employees 30 people based out of its own offices.
We put Hetherington under the spotlight to hear more about his startup.
Tell us more about your company.
eeGeo provides a cloud-based 3D mapping and visualisation platform that enables our customers to deliver their content and services within mobile applications.
We have an automated processing pipeline that ingests source mapping data to create a geospatially accurate 3D model of the world, both the exterior land, buildings, roads and terrain, and the interior of venues.
The platform streams map data in real-time over wireless networks and enables high quality rendering on smartphones and tablets within applications built using our software development kit.
We licence access to the platform to businesses who deliver compelling visualisations of information and data within the 3D map environment.
Our customers include large corporate enterprises which use our detailed interior mapping to provide enhanced visitor and employee experiences, orientation and resource management across their offices and campuses.
And Himex, a telematics and usage based insurance technology provider, which uses the platform to deliver ‘dashboards' for insurance company customers to visualising their performance within a virtual world.
Why did you develop eeGeo?
The original vision for the platform was as a 3D model of the real world in which interactive games could be published.
As mobile device and network technology has progressed so it has enabled a wider market for content delivery and visualisation in applications that drive user engagement and retention.
Our technology remains true to the exacting demands of the real-time gaming market, but to date we have built the business by focusing on a broad range of enterprise markets.
How did you get your business off the ground?
eeGeo was founded through the acquisition of core intellectual property that had previously been developed elsewhere together with key members of the team responsible for its creation. I provided initial funding, together with a number of other private investors and venture capitalists.
Our key breakthrough came when NTT DoCoMo, the largest mobile network operator in Japan, selected us as their mapping platform of choice and launched their consumer facing application in April 2014.
This has served to prove the scalability and robustness of platform in delivering uninterrupted operation to millions of end users, as well as demonstrating our ability to create highly detailed 3D maps of whole regions in a matter of weeks.
What technology do you use?
Since we provide a complete end-to-end system for 3D mapping, we have to use a wide range of technologies, from managing the ingestion and processing of big data in cloud-based processing farms through the optimised streaming of compressed 3D map data over mobile networks, to the efficient real time animation of 3D graphics within native applications on iOS and Android smartphones.
This proprietary technology stack is our "secret sauce" and where the bulk of our investment has been made; it is crucial in providing us our business advantage.
Our platform is hosted by Amazon Web Services and we use their CloudFront content delivery network. Development takes place in a number of environments - everything from server side scripting to embedded C for mobile devices, as well as 3D graphic design environments used by our artists and designers.
Did you start out in an incubator or startup centre?
No, we hit the ground running with resources acquired from a previous company.
What level of funding have you received so far?
To date eeGeo has received approximately $18m of funding.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
Building a robust, industrial grade platform that is scalable to support mapping of the entire world capable of being served to millions of end users in real time is a non-trivial problem. We have invested significantly in a team to develop our own IPR that overcomes these significant technical challenges.
While it was tempting to shout about what we were doing during development, we have bided our time and made sure we have several blue-chip customers from different markets in place that prove the efficacy and robustness of our technology before launching the platform.
From a marketing side there are challenges in educating our customer base to think about mapping in a new way as a visualisation and discovery platform, rather than a purely functional navigational tool.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
Seeing our vision of a 3D model of the world being seamlessly delivered in an engaging way on mobile devices.
As a user, the experience of being able to zoom in from high above a city to the detail of a desk in an office while intuitively discovering points of interest and complex information around the view exemplifies what we have achieved.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
We enjoy a social drink or meal out in town as a group, but having roots in the gaming industry you can be confident there might be some of the crew enjoying the latest console experiences or maybe even exploring the 3D world in virtual reality.
What did you do before starting eeGeo?
I have spent most of my career in the world of video gaming. I variously co-founded Psygnosis, notable for Lemmings, which was sold to Sony.
I was managing director at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe where I oversaw the introduction of the PlayStation One console and development of the European launch catalogue.
I formed several multi-million dollar and multi-million unit selling video game studios, including DMA Design, responsible for Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, Bizarre Creations, and Travellers Tales. I also founded Evolution Studios, which made Motorstorm and Drive Club which was later sold to Sony.
Immediately prior to starting eeGeo, I was co-founder of RealTime Worlds where the 3D world mapping environment that forms the core intellectual property for the eeGeo platform was developed.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
Favourite: being able to build a team to jointly see a vision realised, and ultimately reward the efforts of everyone. Worst: anything that slows the pace of our business.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
There are very few that have had the opportunity to deliver across enterprise, consumer and social markets as we do: perhaps the answer is a mashup of Salesforce.com, Waze and Facebook!
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
As a company we do all three: we have our headquarters in an office in Dundee; a number of the team work remotely in London and San Francisco and we also sometimes make use of a shared office environment in San Francisco.
I spend my time between working remotely in London or the North West and being in the office in Dundee.
Coffee shop of choice?
Whatever is local and convenient, providing the coffee is good. Having a 3D mapping app makes it very easy to spot nearby coffee shops which I can find my way to using recognisable landmarks.
Beverage of choice?
You can't beat a perfectly kept and poured pint of bitter.
Recce, of course! It's a brilliant way to explore and discover what is around any area, and I'm always using it to make plans when I am travelling.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
We attend a number of networking events in the tech and wider business community, and benefit from the contacts we have made at them.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
There is a wealth of innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the UK, fed by our outstanding education system and universities.
Where we need more support, especially in comparison with the USA, is in connecting sources of funding to startups and in particular intellectual property creation, the life blood of so many creative and technology industries; "build it here, keep it here".
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cyber security firm SQR Systems and meeting rooms-as-a-service firm MeetingRooms.com, to social listening app Twizoo and data analytics SaaS firm Saberr.
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