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There's no stopping this Kiwi startup

07 Sep 2015

AREA360, the New Zealand startup and creator of STQRY, has secured funding from a top US technology venture group, and is expanding into the American market while also building its Wellington-based team.

The company's Series A round of financing, let by top tech investor Madrona Venture Group, closed at $5.5 million NZD, which will help the company to scale its location based ‘experience’ products.

In addition, the company is opening a Seattle-based headquarters and hiring a new executive team and more developers.

“Location-aware services provide a delightful customer experience that modern consumers will come to expect,” says Paul Goodrich, Madrona Venture Group managing director.

“Chris [Smith, AREA360 CEO and founder,] and his team have built an advanced platform that has already reached millions of consumers. 

"We are excited to support them as they continue to expand their business and bring delightful navigation, content and other services to the next million," he says.

AREA360's products are built for large and frequently visited locations such as airports, hospitals and museums. They are designed to enable non-technical managers to create meaningful experiences based on location data, with the power of beacons, GPS, WiFi and more. 

The company's products are used by more than 400 customers worldwide including Emirates Airlines, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. 

While most beacon-related systems have been commercialised with a focus on marketing in the retail industry, AREA360 solutions are applicable for any industry.

“We started AREA360 to give organisations the ability to enhance their customer experience by providing navigation as well as relevant information and unique opportunities along their path” says Smith.

“Using beacon and other location data, our platform enables customers to create a broad portfolio of useful services.

“For example airports can deliver navigation to and from gates, along with a stop at the nearest Starbucks; museums can bring to life that new piece of art by presenting a video on the artist’s inspiration; and an operations manager can track their most valuable assets in real time," he says.

Smith says the company saw an opportunity to rapidly advance its business by opening a Seattle-based headquarters, while simultaneously growing the Wellington office into a ‘development powerhouse’. 

Recruited by Smith, the Seattle-based head of operations is Dave Martine, former GM of OnlineShoes.com, and head of marketing is Nathan J. Peterson, the former T-Mobile US leader. These two are joined by Seattle's VP of Global Sales, Jennifer Smith.

Andrew Reid, from Zeacom and Navman, will take up the position of head of technology in the thirty person, Wellington-based development group.

Smith says the company has plans to grow the team to more than forty developers by the end of the year.   

AREA360 was formed in 2012 in Wellington and has grown under the leadership of Chris Smith and Ezel Kokcu.

The New Zealand community has been a huge supporter in the growth of AREA360 and STQRY, including advisors Gareth Morgan, Dion Mortensen, Alan Gourdie and Sven Baker, as well as organisations such as Callaghan Innovation, NZTE, Grow Wellington and the ICE Angels, the company says.

Smith says, “The support from New Zealand’s startup community helped us to thrive and our customer response has been overwhelming. We look forward to continuing to grow our business in the US, New Zealand and the rest of the world.”

Mike Evans New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) customer manager, says, “We congratulate AREA360 on their ongoing growth and success, in particular in the United States.

“They are a great example of an ambitious New Zealand tech company growing internationally by entering new markets. Their partnership with Madrona is an important endorsement of their already considerable success.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the AREA360 team on their ongoing growth in the US and in other markets."

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