UNL, a Singapore-based startup that wants to create a universal addressing system, has raised US$2 million in early-stage funding co-led by location tech firm Here Technologies and VC fund Elev8.
Singapore deep-tech investor SGInnovate, SOSV’s Mobile Only Accelerator (MOX), and Amsterdam-based VentureRock also participated in the round.
According to UNL co-founder and CEO Xander van der Heijden, ecommerce is taking over global retail, but street names and postal codes today were never designed for the digital economy. Moreover, there’s an estimated 4 billion people without an address.
“To respond to the limitations of the current systems on businesses and individuals alike, we came to the conclusion we needed to build a universal addressing system that can uniquely identify locations globally,” he told Tech in Asia.
UNL is building what it calls the “internet of places.”
Its technology divides the world into a 3D grid of microcells and assigns every cell a location ID (similar to domain names). It then adds a smart contract layer to make locations programmable and transactional, turning a location into a point of sale, point of delivery, or point of payment.
In the internet of places, real-life locations are coupled with UNL IDs, powering location-based services in industries such as ecommerce, delivery, mobility, smart-city solutions, and autonomous vehicles.
For example, consumers and businesses can customize their address, manage private metadata for purposes such as know-your-customer and the like, perform indoor and outdoor navigation, or optimize last-mile routes, among others, van der Heijden explained.
The company said it will use the fresh capital to develop its core infrastructure and further expand its operations globally, starting with Asia. It is now building local teams in Singapore, Indonesia, India, and Japan.
UNL was built in Amsterdam in 2018, but the company moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2019, as it recognized the lack of sufficient addressing and digital infrastructure in the region, van der Heijden said.
“UNL’s ability to bring accurate location to developing and emerging markets will enable services from delivery to microloans for the next 4 billion internet users,” said William Bao Bean, general partner at SOSV and managing director at MOX.