ThunderMaps

Making the world a safer place, one dangerous location at a time.

WATCH OUT, YOU’RE ABOUT TO STEP INTO A SINKHOLE!!

TM-Green-OriginalThere’s an app for that. It’s built in Wellington, it’s being used all over the world, and it’s called ThunderMaps.

ThunderMaps enables businesses and governments to crowdsource hazard locations, and then let employees and citizens know when they’re in danger in real time.

Employees and citizens can enter hazard data from a mobile app, which is then used to warn people, analyse trends, take corrective action where possible, and generally reduce risk and improve safety. Think “Waze for danger.”

They integrate with over 500 services including Google sheets, Zendesk, Salesforce, Slack. They also have facility to integrate open data sources such as weather, fire, police callouts, earthquakes, etc. Integration is also two way, so you can pull data from ThunderMaps into other systems.

ThunderMaps charges clients with a small monthly per-user charge, plus a one-time setup fee for large organisations that want to “show leadership” with their own branded app.

In New Zealand, health and safety is a big issue, especially with the introduction last month of regulations under the new Health and Safety Act. In the new post-Pike River regime, company officers and directors can end up in prison for not taking all practical measures to provide a safe workplace. It has been, and will continue to be on the board agendas of all of the NZ boards I’m on.

It’s not only a local issue – health and safety is a global concern. Globally, 6,300 people die per day, and 1m people per day are injured in work-related accidents. That’s shocking. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 4% of global GDP is lost due to injury or death at work. That’s expensive. We investors often talk about “pain points” in a figurative sense, but this pain is very real.

Although the company has only been trading for 23 months, they already have 10m dangerous locations recorded in their database, and they’re gunning to make that 100m in the next year. They’ve gone from zero to 17 staff worldwide in that period, and currently have 200+ customers with over 8,000 users. Revenues are growing at about 20% month-on-month. They recently won a European Union tender for city wide implementations, and have made sales to three European cities so far. Other customers range from big organisations like Downer EDI Works, TBfree NZ, Gannet Offshore, World Wildlife Fund and the NZ Fire Service, right down to medium and small businesses that just need a simple way to make health and safety easy.

As an example, TBfree NZ is charged with eliminating bovine tuberculosis in New Zealand. Wandering around cattle farms can be a dangerous business – there are all sorts of hazards like terrain, chemicals, and dogs. The main source of TB is possums, and trapping possums is also dangerous. ThunderMaps helps reduce risk by documenting these hazards and automatically making the people at risk aware of them with location-based alerts. Being concerned for and looking after employees helps TBfree NZ attract and retain staff. Governments prefer to let out contracts to companies who take health and safety seriously, and so ThunderMaps makes it easier for its customers to win RFPs. Everybody wins.

Clint van Marrewijk
Chris Noldus

ThunderMaps is led by CEO Clint van Marrewijk, who was looking for the next big thing after completing his earnout period when Kiwibank bought Gareth Morgan Kiwisaver. I first met Clint at Startup Weekend Wellington in 2015, so I guess can say that I knew him before he was famous. He’s put together a stellar team, and has attracted top talent to his board including local heroes JD Trask and Victoria MacLennan. CTO Chris Noldus has an extensive track record in just about in more open source technologies than you can name in one breath, and was the guy who developed the iPredict prediction marketplace. They have offices in The Terrace in Wellington, London, and Gothenburg Sweden.

Ideas are great, but sometimes they get in the way. Given the choice between doing something cool and shipping product, shipping product will always win…

Why The Terrace and not Cuba Street? The team culture is very focused on getting stuff done. Clint says, “Ideas are great, but sometimes they get in the way. Given the choice between doing something cool and shipping product, shipping product will always win at ThunderMaps. We’re running a business that saves lives, not an agency.”

They’ve been mainly self-funded by their founders, and they’ve taken on a small chunk of angel investment. They’re working toward raising Series A late this year to fuel international growth.

We currently live in an era where for the first time, everything is becoming knowable. The facts that can save your life risk being drowned in an ocean of big data. ThunderMaps organises this critical knowledge into accessible, actionable, and auditable alerts. While we can’t completely eliminate risks – we’ll never be able to fence off every sinkhole – we can identify and mitigate those risks. ThunderMaps is one of those rare apps that might save your life, or the lives of one of your coworkers or family members some day.

Ask Nicely

Measure and manage customer happiness in real time.

asknicelyDo you really know how much your customers like your product or service? Really? If so, you’re probably measuring your Net Promoter Score (NPS), the global standard for measuring customer loyalty.

If you’re not familiar with it, NPS is the result of asking your customers a one-question survey: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” Promoters are people who rate you 9 or 10. Passives are people who give you 7 or 8. Detractors are people who give you 6 or less. Simple equation: NPS = % Promoters – % Detractors. As a business, you want your NPS to be as high as possible. Apple recently scored 47, and Citibank -41. Smart companies employ NPS as a board-level metric.

Ask Nicely is the Auckland-based startup that is leading the world in measuring and managing NPS. They launched in December 2014, and are already taking the market by storm, with thousands of users in over 80 countries. They’re growing at 25% month-on-month, with over 90% of this growth coming from the US.

They are the classic well-focused startup – they do only one thing, but they do it extremely well. They can get you up and running and measuring and managing this critical metric in minutes. Their customer list is very diverse, including household names like Seagate, Rackspace, Xero, as well as an NBA franchise and the world’s largest network of phone-based psychics. It would appear that even psychics value independent assessments of customer satisfaction.

John Ballinger and Aaron Ward
John Ballinger and Aaron Ward

The idea for Ask Nicely was conceived in a late-night session in a Ponsonby cafe in April 2014 when co-founders Aaron Ward and John Ballinger decided to “do for surveys what Twitter did for blogging”. In true Lean Startup fashion, John built a rough prototype over the next couple of days, and they knew they had a viable business when 11 out of 12 companies they showed it to said they’d pay for the service. From idea to validated MVP in a fortnight – stunning.

For much of the next two years, the company operated out of John’s garage in Ponsonby. They are mindfully building an Exponential Organisation (XO), using external resources for as much as possible and focusing on the hard bits where they add the most value. And like an XO, they integrate with a wide range of products that exchange data with systems their customers are already using. Currently, these include Salesforce, Intercom, Slack, Klipfolio, Mailchimp, Mixpanel, Desk.com, Zendesk, Groove, Helpscout, Freshdesk, Shopify, Zapier, and Geckoboard, with a number of others in the pipeline. They see integrations as one of their key growth channels. The other main growth channels are pay-per-click advertising and content marketing. Aaron claims that their cost per acquisition is very low compared to the average customer lifetime value. Organic referrals also play a significant role.

The team has expanded to five people this year, with two sales people based in the US, and another dev in Auckland.

The users clearly love it. Ask Nicely has the highest satisfaction rating for its category on G2Crowd. Their main competitors, Satmetrix and Medallia, are enterprise solutions with price tags that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Ask Nicely starts at USD 49 per month. Given that they’re the only serious tool in their bracket, they’re on the way to owning this category.

Over the last two years, they’ve raised two small seed rounds from ICE Angels, AngelHQ, K1W1, NZVIF, and a few others. Last month, two years to the day after coming up with the idea, Aaron and John returned to the Ponsonby cafe for another late night session, this time plotting their Series A raise. They’re preparing to build out their team and accelerate US momentum. If you’re a member of an angel club, keep your eyes open for this opportunity when it comes round.

Ahead of the Series A, Ask Nicely are looking for a PHP dev to accelerate delivery of an ambitious product roadmap and architect the platform to perform at massive scale.

Aaron says the big goal is to tackle a meaningful global problem, helping businesses achieve better results by delivering great customer experiences, owning that category, and doing it from New Zealand.

You could say that with Ask Nicely, New Zealand is yet again helping to make the world a happier place.