The man who helped build Sony’s PlayStation from scratch and brought cult classics like Lemmings, Wipeout and Shadow of the Beast to market has turned his skills to a self-funded startup
Ian Hetherington's new baby, eeGeo, is a “geospatial meta-mapping platform.” Essentially, it makes interactive maps based on local data - including satellites and ordnance survey data.
London on the eeGeo Recce app
With the Brit’s gaming credentials and a 30-strong team of some of the brightest and most creative gaming developers in the industry, Hetherington reckons he could give Google Maps a run for its money.
eeGeo allows businesses and tourist hotspots like shopping malls, offices, hotels or even local authorities, to build mobile apps to help customers or visitors navigate their way around their surroundings. It lets them send them location-based information like the nearest cash point of coffee shop, or discounts and advertising. It even lets you ride the nearby tram, should you be so inclined.
What sets eeGeo apart is its granular accuracy and that its sharp graphics are mobile optimised. So much so that you can pick out rice paddy field boundaries in Japan, Hetherington assures TechWorld.
There’s even the chance to tour a city in virtual reality using Oculus or a similar headset. That’s if you want to stay plugged in.
The buzzword du jour, “gamification” wasn’t an afterthought for Hetherington. It’s the very essence of the map and he believes it is guaranteed to get users hooked. Before launching officially last week, it had received almost five million downloads. “It’s all about user experience..People just like to mess around” he says.
Hetherington hopes the wider VR community will accelerate virtual and augmented reality developments by open sourcing the platform and seeing what the next big thing in their garage throws back to them.
While the team has talent from Grand Theft Auto and “the best engineers in Britain”, getting input from the wider developer community is increasingly recognised as the best way to run a tech business. Similarly, crowd-sourced testing, security checks and innovation has helped some of the larger tech players like Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google.
It currently takes Hetherington and his team about four to six weeks to create entire territories in granular detail. When the client is ready to add in floor plans or location specific information, “we’ll colour the rest in,” Hetherington says.
Build your own IP
It’s taken five years but now eeGeo has its own IP: cloud optimisation (the platform is hosted in AWS) and big data software that are rendered for mobile.
Having your own IP is crucial for budding entrepreneurs - and the UK economy as a whole. Britain has delivered some of the best games to the world, but suffers a brain drain to Silicon Valley.
Hetherington gathered around £12 million to fund his venture through private donations. He admits that the funding environment is one of the main challenges to startups keen to stay on our shore. But he advises: “build it in Britain...keep it British and then it will flow into the economy.”