Ex-Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy has invested in a startup called Purple WiFi to help the firm take its free public wi-fi service around the world.

Purple WiFi – deployed at venues like the Hippodrome, Alexandra Palace and Camden Market in London, as well across the whole of the City of York – allows users to gain free access to a public wi-fi network through their existing social media accounts or a short form. The user gets access to wi-fi, while the benefit to the business hosting the service (such as a restaurant, hotel, shop, museum, sports stadium or shopping mall) is that they are rewarded with analytic insights into the profiles and movements of their customers and a sophisticated built-in marketing platform.

Camden Market has already deployed Purple WiFi's network ©Flickr Ashley Lourey
Camden Market has already deployed Purple WiFi's network ©Flickr Ashley Lourey

Purple WiFi’s social media authentication covers a number of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Instagram, with Chinese Weibo and Russian VKontakte coming soon. The login screen and analytics platform auto-translates into 18 languages.

Leahy, one of the lead investors in Purple WiFi’s £3.3 million ($5 million) funding round, said: “Having been in the retail space for many years, I have seen how technology has and will continue to revolutionise the industry.

“Purple WiFi is a brilliant example of how additional value can be driven from an existing infrastructure. I’ve been incredibly impressed with what Gavin and the team have achieved to date. I very much look forward to helping them drive global expansion and adoption.”

The company has partered with networking giants like Cisco, Cisco Meraki, BT, Telstra and Vodafone, in order to turn get its technology into a total of 7,500 venues across 60 countries. 

Leahy, who launched the Tesco Clubcard, and took Tesco from the third largest in the UK to the third largest retailer in the world, has been appointed to Purple WiFi’s board. Last week, Tesco announced that, dunnhumby, the data and shopper insights company behind its Clubcard loyalty programme will be sold off.

Others investors in the latest round include, Bill Currie, Iain MacDonald and Bob Willett from the William Currie Group with participation from Juno Capital a leading Angel Syndicate. 

Purple WiFi CEO Gavin Wheeldon said: “Wi-fi is something that is expected, for free, just as we expect access to heat, light and water. But the big question in recent years has been how to monetise wi-fi. Purple WiFi has created an innovative low cost solution that gives unprecedented analytics and insights, whilst driving true ROI for businesses.

“We have seen unimaginable interest and demand for the product, not just within the obvious sectors of retail, leisure and hospitality, but also unexpected sectors such as social housing, education and healthcare, where they want to use WiFi to communicate better and deliver services. I’m absolutely delighted with this new investment and expertise, which will help us accelerate our product feature set and further build out the team that I am already very proud of.”