Growing up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Khaled Naim noticed something lacking in the city's infrastructure. Despite its well-developed economy and urban amenities, Dubai was plagued by poor city planning that led to a messy address system.
"The way they describe locations is, 'Turn left at the gas station after the third speed bump, pass the garbage can on your right,'" said Naim. "It doesn't lend itself very well to ordering things, whether its food delivery or e-commerce."
That's precisely the catalyst Naim, who recently received his degree from Stanford's Graduate School of Business, used to found Addy, a location startup that allows anyone anywhere in the world to create a custom address and assign it a URL. That virtual address can then be shared with anyone in the world, through SMS, email, or social networks.The company is leaving behind its one-year private beta Monday -- which saw testing with local food trucks and event companies in the Stanford area and individuals and businesses in the UAE -- and opening to the public on the financial and development foundation built through the university's non-profit StartX accelerator. Underpinning its URL-based address system is a business model open to companies not just in the Bay Area, but all over the world.
"We've started business development efforts in the Middle East, but there's the potential for it to work in places like Africa, India, Latin America, and even rural parts of China," Naim said.
Addy is about as simple to use as Web sites get. Login options include Facebook Connect or a simple email and password. Once you're onboard, you can create an Addy, assign it a custom URL and name, and leave notes.
For instance, if you were having people over to your home, an Addy could include details about nearby stores for food and drinks, a buzzer code, and parking instructions. All Addies can be accessed by anyone, but Naim said his team is exploring ways to show select parts of them, like the notes section, to chosen users. But the URLs are never listed anywhere publicly, and can be everything from an inside joke with friends to an indecipherable string of numerals.
Anyone can view an Addy URL address without having a login, but creating your own locations requires one. The company limits the number of locations your able to create at the moment, but will soon have a paid pro tier that offers up to 40 Addies and includes features for businesses. To unlock the ability to create more addresses, current users have to share their Addies or refer friends to the service.
Addy used to use Google Maps, but switched to OpenStreetMaps, the open source collaborative project to map the planet, because Google keeps a tight leash on its mapping technology. It also charges people for higher volumes of traffic on platforms utilizing that API.
"We saw the value of being able to control the experience completely. As we built our e-commerce widget, we discovered we needed more data and needed our own database and points of interest to overlay," Naim said. "You can't do that on Google Maps. You don't own the data, and that's a large value." Despite that, Addy still relies on Google for directions.
Now that it's open to the public, the Addy team wants to flesh out its business offerings. "We've gotten pilot customers on board, those will be launching next month," Naim said.
The company has thus far received $300,000 in funding from investors and First Round Capitol's Dorm Room Fund, which it plans to put towards developing a mobile app and refining the features of its pro account tier before making it available to the public.