OpenOcean’s investment in Unacast — the value of high quality proximity data

In May 2016, OpenOcean invested together with Norwegian Investinor, alongside NYC media-industry veterans, such as Jonah Goodheart, Michael Barrett and Bill Wise, in proximity data company Unacast Inc. Norwegian born and US-domiciled, Unacast is the largest global aggregator of precise proximity data.

Whilst co-founders Thomas Walle and Kjartan Slette were at TIDAL, the Norwegian/Swedish founded music streaming service subsequently acquired by Jay Z, they saw that although it was possible to learn everything about what users listened to and what music they shared, they had no way of knowing what concerts users went to or how they moved around a city or at the event. That is — they knew nothing about the user’s physical self. Thomas and Kjartan set about fixing this by building a company that connected all beacon and proximity sensors in the world to the same platform.

Initially, Unacast’s data-set came exclusively from the new and growing network of beacons. Beacons are small, energy-efficient physical devices that communicate with apps on mobile devices to track user locations in the physical world. Any user who has installed an app communicating with beacons can be tracked to a very granular physical location. With currently over 13 million beacons deployed globally, the beacon market is set to grow rapidly and reach at least hundreds of millions of beacons in the next few years.

Online accounts to only 30% of the entire customer (shopping) journey, the remaining 70% takes place in the real world in physical locations like retail stores, stadiums, movie theaters, museums, and shopping centers. Therefore, better answers to questions such as: how much time does a customer spend in my venue? How many visitors make a purchase? What are the most popular sections in my venue? How much time does an average visitor spend in my store? as well as many more, can help to define the success of a bricks and mortar venue and revitalise the business. If having insight into a third of the customer journey already can significantly boost advertising results, imagine what can be achieved with knowledge of the customer’s real life behavior, interests, and shopping habits? Sports teams and venues in North America have widely adopted beacons and location services, and are as a result reclaiming millions of dollars in lost ticket sales and have opened up entirely new revenue streams.

Since the investment, Unacast have broadened their proximity data network to include other accurate location data sets, such as geofence data. OpenOcean’s investment thesis in Unacast was that not only will the high accuracy location data market experience very rapid growth (which is being proven already), but that the true battle of smarter services and more relevant advertising will be held to a large degree in the physical world. Consumers will be better served and less annoyed as they receive seamless and more contextually aware services, retailers and venue owners will be more profitable, and the winning data player(s) in this market will be a very valuable company.

Unacast has continued to lead the way in aggregating highly accurate proximity data. Due to strong demand, they have also made this data commercially available late last year, ahead of schedule. Today, Unacast provides an accessible and rapidy growing Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering to the advertising industry. As the company continues to scale their data collection, data analytics, and commercialisation, they will be raising a new financing round later in the year. Unacast is now executing on its mission to build the first scalable solution for retailers, venue owners, and brands, to use super-accurate location data for targeting physical interactions — incorporating the Real World Graph.