sensewhere’s export success

Published on Monday December 2nd, 2013

Case Study by Scottish Enterprise

sensewhere™ had developed a technology solution that needed support to attract private equity investment. With our help, sensewhere achieve its ambition and is now reaping the rewards with new contract wins.

sensewhere is a leader in the provision of positioning and location-based data without the use of GPS. The sensewhere technology is ideal for busy urban areas and indoor locations, where GPS is often either inaccurate or non-existent.

sensewhere automatically crowd-sources and cross-references radio frequency (RF) access point data via users’ own devices, cheaply and dynamically creating an almost limitless proprietary global RF location database that self-corrects with use.

sensewhere also allows social networks, device manufacturers, mobile phone networks, retailers and airports to capitalise on the enormous potential of highly accurate indoor location data.

The concept was investigated as an Scottish Enterprise funded Proof of Concept project in 2005, with sensewhere spinning out of the University of Edinburgh in 2009. The company is now successfully licensing its software on a global scale while continuing to create its own intellectual property.


The challenge

Development of high-tech solutions such as sensewhere’s beyond the proof of concept stage is not only technologically challenging, but can also be high risk. However, the potential rewards were high. Significant levels of funding are often required to support the complex and lengthy nature of the development process.


How we helped

2009 proved to be a significant year for sensewhere. The company completed the Proof of Concept project, spun out from the University of Edinburgh, had two patent applications pending and were looking for private equity investment. At this time the company got in touch with us and our High Growth Start Up unit where they were successful in their application for SMART: SCOTLAND support.

The initial SMART: SCOTLAND Feasibility grant of £70k was match-funded by the company founders and the Scottish Enterprise Seed Fund. This funding enabled the company to continue to develop their technology to a demonstrable stage, while they sought to attract private equity funding.

This support provided contributions towards travel, attendance at exhibitions and patent applications. This support all helped the company to expand its network of contacts, raise its profile and protect its intellectual property. In May 2011, sensewhere successfully attracted £1.5m private equity investment.

In April 2012, sensewhere was successful in its application for a SMART: SCOTLAND R&D award of £600k. This funding will enable a multi-faceted development project, which aims to solve some of the challenges in providing more accurate indoor positioning and mapping through the use of sensors to support their processes. In turn, this project will create new intellectual property for Sensewhere.

Gregor MacDonald, SMART: SCOTLAND Case Officer at Scottish Enterprise explains, “SMART: SCOTLAND funding can ensure Scottish companies like Sensewhere are supported in technically high-risk projects, where the private sector wouldn’t provide funding. By giving these companies a chance to succeed we avoid Scotland losing its technology advantage.”

Rob Palfreyman, CEO at sensewhere continues, “The latest SMART: SCOTLAND R&D funding is vital to help sensewhere overcome the remaining technical hurdles and build its IP; we currently have 11 patents pending and want to continue to build on this work.”


International trade support

In 2011, following its success in attracting private equity investment, sensewhere began to look at international growth to develop its business overseas. It got in touch with our team at Scottish Development International (SDI) and has benefited from a range of support.

Our international strategy workshop helped sensewhere to define clear aims, objectives and a strategy for delivery in international markets.

Match-funded support enabled overseas visits to explore opportunities and develop contacts. The company was also provided with support to hire two export managers. The first of these explored opportunities on the US West Coast., leaving the company directors free to run the business in the UK. The second was based in Scotland but created business development opportunities in the Far East and Asia.

Further support match-funded the employment of a marketing graduate for 6 months. The graduate developed sensewhere’s social media presence and consultancy to clarify the company’s marketing messages and build a strong international brand.

Support for international travel and attendance at events overseas enabled the sensewhere team to begin to build its own network of global connections. sensewhere also received local overseas support with particular success coming from connections and introductions within the Japanese market, leading to the formation of relationships with major suppliers and networks in Japan.


The impact

SMART: SCOTLAND funding has been instrumental in the development of sensewhere. The feasibility grant allowed the company to prove the technical viability of their technology. This contributed significantly in sensewhere’s success in attracting private equity investment.

The success in attracting investment meant that the company was able to match-fund the SMART: SCOTLAND R&D award. This further funding will help the company to shape their commercial offering and enable them to develop additional products.

This support is now starting to translate into commercial success as the company successfully builds relationships and wins contracts. For example, sensewhere has won a contract to provide a geo-fencing service to a network operator in South America.

The support is also helping the company to explore opportunities around mobile marketing and advertising as well as social media integration.

Rob Palfreyman sums up his experience in working with Scottish Enterprise: “I really couldn’t recommend them highly enough. The teams at the High Growth Start Up unit, Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise have been professional, committed, interested in our success and willing to help in any way possible.

“There is no way that sensewhere could have experienced what it has to date without the support of Scottish Enterprise.”

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