Craig Wareham, founder and CEO of ViewRanger
Augmentra Ltd is the smartphone app development company behind ViewRanger GPS – an award winning mobile phone application which delivers GPS navigation, mapping and location-based content to outdoor activity enthusiasts and outdoor professionals worldwide.
Augmentra was founded, in 2006, after positive reaction from fellow hillwalkers to some smartphone mapping software built by the founders in response to their frustration with the limitations of consumer GPS and mapping tools available at the time. Since then, the company has continued to be recognised for its innovation leadership whilst combining a passion for highly functional products with delivering awesome customer service.
1. Rumour has it that you used to work in Hollywood – is there any truth in this story? Kind of. I lived in Los Angeles working as a studio consultant with some of the big animated film studios including Warner Bros., Hanna Barbera, and the brand new (at the time) Dreamworks. We were helping them to transform the way they produced animated feature films and cartoons from manual to computer technology – created above King’s Parade in Cambridge! It was huge fun.
2. Where did the idea for ViewRanger originate?Myself and ViewRanger co-founder Mike Brocklehurst had worked for a number of visual computing technology companies and were looking for a new challenge. Mike was a keen hill walker and had a collection of the famous Wainwright Guides – these feature hand drawn maps and personal notes about what to see. We wanted to create a digital version of these guides that captured their unique mix of navigation and informative editorial.
3. Google offers a free street map facility, what is different about ViewRanger?Firstly, ViewRanger is a designed for off-road activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, etc. and the map is downloaded to your phone so you don’t need a mobile signal. It is one of the largest sources of digital trail guides available. Secondly, it is also a social network where outdoor enthusiasts can plan and share their adventures.
4. Do you think ViewRanger is as robust as the dedicated handheld GPS devices? Our users tell us it is, and that includes 100 search and rescue teams. They use ViewRanger on their own phones and they say that ViewRanger is more dependable and more useful than the dedicated handheld outdoor GPS units they may have and often leave in the control vehicle.
5. Who is behind the company, does the board of directors play an active role? Since 2009 we have been supported by an incredible group of business angels, including Cambridge Capital Group and they include some very keen cyclists, sailors, Himalayan hikers – so we get input and feedback from them. Our chair, Richard Brennan, was a founding executive of the Orange mobile network and loves outdoor adventures, he’s just back from motorbike trekking in Namibia.
6. Is it possible to create a business from a free app? Where does the revenue come from?Yes. The freemium model can work well. For us, it allows us to gain substantial user acquisition with the confidence that a significant and growing percentage of those users will purchase premium content – specialist maps or publisher branded trail guides. The more users we have, the more attractive we are as a platform for our content publisher partners. The more relevant content we have, then the more interesting we are as an app for our users. We track and monitor data from our sales funnel very closely, so we understand likely user behaviour in each country and by mobile platform. We are seeing spender conversion rates significantly ahead of industry norms.
7. ViewRanger is more that an app on a phone, can you explain how brands such as the AA and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), Le Manoir Aux QuatSaisons and tourist boards get involved? With 800,000+ apps to choose from consumers expect the best. To maintain this quality involves a lot of investment. It is difficult for small publishers and public sector organisations to do this effectively. So partnering with ViewRanger removes a lot of risk for these organisations. The organisation gets free access to a powerful publishing platform and instant delivery of their content to a wide range of smartphone, tablet, and web platforms. The only investment required is a little time to load their content into the ViewRanger publishing tool. We also provide them with free and easy tools to for example, embed route maps into their own websites, and analytics tools to help them understand who is consuming their content.
8. Do these 400 brands get profile with ViewRanger?ViewRanger is focused on maintaining a top-ranking position within the App stores – which is critical to drive user downloads of any app. ViewRanger is successfully listed in the top 20, has achieved #1 status in over 20 territories, and is seeing its app download volumes rise by 50% month on month at the moment. Each publisher has its own brand page within ViewRanger, and users affiliate themselves with brands – so we can help create a dialogue between the publishing brand and the consumer who is using their content.
9. What is the next big thing for ViewRanger? In addition to improving the user experience and enabling a worldwide community of outdoor consumers, we are also building more tools to support our publishers – both our brand partners and our user publishers - so that they can better understand how their digital guides are being used and have a dialogue with their consumers. Also, we’re working on a groundbreaking project with European partners including the German Red Cross and Swiss Alpine Club that aims to set new benchmarks for outdoor navigation.
10. Is Cambridge still a good place to develop a software company?Cambridge is a fantastic place to create a software company. Whilst the Cambridge brand is often more closely associated with semi-conductors, hardware, and biotech, many of the platform companies – ARM, CSR and newcomers like Neul – provide the foundation that much software is built upon. So proximity to these companies can help in being aware of the next big thing. ViewRanger is unusual for Cambridge in being a consumer mobile app company. Maybe a solution to Cambridge’s perceived marketing problem is that we need to better highlight more of the companies targeting consumer markets – Jagex, Frontier Developments, Aurasma, AlertMe, for example. I sense that Cambridge has lost some of that “hot place to get funding” feel – with Cambridge-based funders looking to London for deal flow, and emerging start-ups looking to London for financing. But – other than occasionally dreaming about decamping to the Lake District – Cambridge is the best place for us to continue to build ViewRanger.http://augmentra.co.uk