[Crowdfunding 🔨] What3words

So to summarise the criticisms:

  • The company wants revenue from the product that they spent money to create.
  • A false claim about that product being presented as an open standard.
  • The company doesn’t freely give away proprietary secrets which would let competitors rip off the product and put them out of business.
  • The Earth’s continents are moving so the target of a location reference can change. That one is no different to lat/lon coordinates but he doesn’t complain about that.
  • Different languages do not use English words.

I’m not a fan of What3Words but I don’t think any of his criticisms are valid.


I do think some of his criticisms are valid, but they don’t necessarily make it a bad investment



I think your summary of criticisms misses the central point which makes this a non-starter.

This company wants to lock the entire world into an addressing scheme they jealously control, and charge people for looking up where they are and where they are going. All queries go through them, they want a monopoly.

Their competition offers free addressing the world over in an open standard which all mapping and gis software has used for decades. For most uses, W3W is less convenient than a link that opens your mapping app.

If companies or countries do decide three words is a good idea for addressing, they can simply come up with their own better scheme (it would not be hard). They have no moat.

Their business model is fundamentally unsound.


I was summarising the criticisms in the article above. It’s just those criticisms which I consider to be invalid.

You argument is much better than that article. I agree with you and it’s effectively the same reason I don’t use W3W myself. A while ago I wanted to implement it in some software I created, but it wasn’t free and I couldn’t store the location database locally so I skipped over it.

I do think their product is based on a good idea and it would be convenient in some situations, e.g. giving an address over the phone and for villages that don’t have street addresses. These situations don’t contrubute revenue though, and I can’t think of any situation which would convince a business to pay to implement W3W other than for the novelty of it.

An interesting blog from a old contributor to this forum


That’s not entirely accurate - Google Maps are propriety for example. I am unsure if Apple Maps are. I’m not sure I understand the hate for what3words protecting their IP - I haven’t seen it for any other company mentioned so why w3w? (Not trolling, I just genuinely don’t understand the reasoning - I agree they appear to be having a challenge monetising their product etc)

I’m referring to lat/lon, which all mapping software accepts, usually with simple links. That’s an open standard, it’s been around for over 2000 years in a similar form (just looked it up, I had no idea it was from the ancients) and nobody will try to charge you money to use it or force you to go through specific servers to look up a location.

IMO they have no IP - you can’t copyright data. Good luck to them monetising that, but I would not invest.


Given it’s determined geeks that have given us things as wondrous as Linux, I imagine an equally determined group could knock together What4words if the will was there and open source it to the world.

I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon (I’m not aware of any work on a project like that) but I also wouldn’t rule it out and unless What3words manages to create a huge lock-in/network effect for their offering then something like that would end them.

I don’t get why it works any better than this

I’m here :slight_smile:

Like @Jim1 I don’t get the anti-proprietary sentiment. The team have worked hard to build it, so is it so wrong of them to charge for it? They don’t charge consumers, only developers/corporates. Also, Google do it already (Charge for geocoding, that is). To me, this argument is like asking Freetrade to put their Invest platform code onto GitHub, or being worried that Freetrade will lose to someone who builds a *non-profit, *open-source commision free broker - which is, to me, extremely unlikely.

I don’t mean to sound stand-offish, sorry if I do, I just really want to see where people are coming from with this.

This. W3W is a non-starter for ‘digital’ location sharing, it’s so easy to just share a link. But W3W is clearly more useful for e.g. postal addresses - that would be a big enough market alone to make a successful company; We can’t put links on envelopes, nor can we remember the 15 digits of a gps coordinate to write down on an envelope. I’ve seen first-hand how our traditional postal address system leads to poor efficiency in logistics. The efficiency of a solution like W3W would be far more efficient and therefore very valuable to couriers, etc.

Very rare to do this outside (or even in) the US, but they appear to have done it; they have patents ( PCT/GB2014/051152). I’m a bit surprised they managed to obtain it, to be honest. To be clear, they’ve patented the software, not data.

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Plus codes, developed by Google engineers and released freely, have been around for a few years.

It’s similar to W3W but using a string of letters and numbers instead of three words. W3W avoids similar sounding words, plus codes avoid letters/numbers that can be misread (1 and i are not allowed). The difference is plus codes use a simple, open algorithm to convert lat/lon to a code which anyone can freely implement. They even provide the source code for free.


This is my problem with the criticisms that get levelled at the company. W3W is just a product the same as any other product. They can do what they like with it and charge what they want for it. It seems to me that a lot of people just feel that they are entitled to have any software product for free, and if it’s not free then they get angry.

Now it’s fair to assess the product against the alternatives. There are similar products/standards (i.e. plus codes, lat/lon codes) which are largely similar and free for both consumers and companies so maybe you choose one of those options instead.
It’s not fair to criticise the product just because it isn’t free.

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Just to add, what I struggle to understand above all else is the hate in spite of the fact that we do not pay for what3words; it is free (to us). It’s the businesses on the other end using it heavily that pay.

I obviously respect the other side’s opinion, and I do welcome anyone to educate me more on their views - I have a feeling I could just be missing something.

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Agreed, for example Uber pay Google Maps for all of the data which powers the location services in the application and no one minds about that.

£150,821,907 - total joke of a valuation. I doubt this co will ever become profitable. I see it is backed by George Osborne’s brother


Interestingly W3W’s came in and did a presentation about their product for a startup I used to work for. They plan to use the service worldwide - their use case was interesting in the fact that postcodes weren’t very reliable, and they used an example of a village in say Kenya whereby the usual postal system meant that one postcode could mean a quarter mile of an area with hundreds if not thousands of inhabitants. Utilising their system, that postal person could deliver to the correct house within a 2 metre range. In the same way as new builds or confusing office blocks etc, you can use the system to pin point an exact location.

That is not to say I will be investing, however this was the case they stated. Once you put that in perspective as a world wide product, it’s quite interesting.

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Already at 92% of their £1,000,000 target with 1031 investors with 29 days left…

Given the information presented to me and their evaluation?

Bonkers. :exploding_head:

[EDIT] - Hit target, now 117%… at 10.50am.

No financials in the pitch deck which is very curious - usually a company provides the current year and the next 3-5 years showing path to profitability. Plenty of threads posting asking for the details. Suspect a lot are investing now to avoid missing out, then will take the 7 day cooling off period to review in more depth and consider keeping their investment or pulling out.

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Super high level thoughts off me at moment:

Improved granular location service, firms like Mercedes, Ford etc already picking up for their in car GPS, plus emergency services & others. No data connection needed to work, improved mapping in cities & countryside areas with poor signal.
Several rounds of VC investors already demonstrating external parties believe in the product

No financials in pitch deck, company currently making loss, not sharing path to profitability (threads asking for this, so may change status to plus dependent on information received)
Investors will receive ordinary shares, prior investors have received preferential shares in the event of a loss
High valuation/share price for a loss making company
No potential exits outlined
No details on growth in API use showing user rise or fall

So a few red flags at the moment, dependent on further information being received - at the moment they simply aren’t providing enough information to make an educated decision IMO

None of this is advice btw just my thoughts out loud…