Accelerate September 2015

A new STQRY unfolding for Wellington startup

open this image in new window: STQRY Accelerate

From a start at Wellington Zoo just three years ago, newly re-launched mobile location technology company AREA360 and its most famous creation, STQRY, are set to explode on the world stage thanks to a significant injection of investment funds.

AREA360 announced recently that it has received US$3.5m (NZ$5.5m) from Madrona Venture Group, and is opening an office in Seattle.

The move expands on the company’s already well-developed presence in the city, where the STQRY app is used by the EMP Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Area 360’s Founder and CEO, Chris Smith, explains that Seattle was the natural choice for the startup as they sought to give the company a toe-hold offshore.

“Seattle was our first port of call in the US. I am originally from the Emerald City, so we called in favours, slept on couches, and built solid business in Seattle.”

The Pacific Northwest city’s approach to the arts and public space – key source material for Area360’s first major product, STQRY – was also attractive.

“Seattle has a huge arts scene, where one percent of public spending goes to public arts and culture. So you can imagine, with taxes paid by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, which generates serious funding.

The eventual result was uptake for STQRY not just in Washington State, but in the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California and at the prestigious Smithsonian Museum across the country in Washington D.C. In all, more 400 customers around the world use STQRY, including the likes of Emirates Airlines and of course, the Wellington Zoo.

“The idea for STQRY as a product was formed while walking through the Wellington Zoo. The zookeeper had all this extra information and previously didn’t have an easy way to share it with visitors.”

The zookeeper’s knowledge had the potential to create a far richer zoo experience, but the vast majority of visitors never had a chance to benefit from it.

“STQRY was our attempt to deliver all of that information in a dynamic way, in the moment.”

Wellington Zoo signed a 4-year contract a few weeks later, and other organisations took notice to the strength of the concept.

Drawing on the company’s rich history of connecting digital content to physical locations through the STQRY app, AREA360’s advanced solutions now enable proximity based content delivery down to one to three meters, providing the tightest correlation of any beacon/location-aware platform on the market.

Smith says they also had some solid backing from the get-go.

“When you’re a start-up, you need the type of bridge funding that Callaghan Innovation offered to have a chance to make it happen.”

“Callaghan Innovation’s project grant provided us with the time and resources to focus on building a team, IP and products, without the distractions of day-to-day survival.”

Callaghan Innovation continues to provide support as AREA360 takes off. The company is now of a scale to qualify for Growth Grant funding, which will help to expand the company’s New Zealand presence and employ up more full time staff.

“The new funding we’ve received from Madrona Venture Group and the Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant has enabled us to welcome new executives, developers and salespeople that will help us take AREA360 to a new level of global reach and scale.”

The story, it seems, is just beginning.

Read the full story on the Callaghan Innovation blog.

Read other stories from Accelerate September 2015

Updated: 28 September 2015