A Year at Unacast: Looking Back at 2018

2018 was a remarkable year, both for the location data industry as a whole and Unacast as a company. I recently shared my year-end reflections with our friends, clients and partners. Read on to find out what we learned this year and what's next.

December 31, 2018

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2018 was the year we matured. Both the location data industry as a whole and Unacast as a company. While previously the very notion of actionable insights from location data was enough to spark interesting conversations and close business, 2018 was about building upon that foundation with higher quality data, smarter technology with self-learning algorithms to group and understand billions of signals, and the ability to answer specific questions that are business critical for our clients.

2018 was also about zooming out from a primary focus on individual data and marketing use cases to more aggregated views of group movement – solving bigger problems. This means that location data is starting to be applicable for a wider range of use cases, from city planning, to real estate, to transportation and retail analytics.

When we started Unacast four years ago, our vision was to solve big-picture societal issues through human mobility  data and insights. 2018 was the first year that dream became tangible and 2019 is the year we scale those new products.

For Unacast, 2018 also meant growth. We close to tripled our revenue and added many new clients around the world with a team of now close to 50 people in Oslo and NYC. We also raised a new financing round of $17.5 million to continue to invest in smart location technology to be a strong partner for current and future clients.

This is all very, very exciting!

Personally, I was most excited to see the tangible and measurable results we provide our clients, like helping KeyMe increase revenue by over 50% through better site selection when they place key copying kiosks or when food trucks in NYC use our data to optimize location to increase revenue. There are many more such examples in 2018, and in 2019 we’ll tackle bigger issues like how we build our cities and how we plan transport in an effective and eco-friendly way.

I will, however, say that we as an industry still have some maturing to do on topics like transparency and privacy. The market will be demanding more information around quality metrics to understand what has been done with the data and thus the strengths and weaknesses for different use cases. We have already done a lot of work here by being transparent in our data products and introducing the Clear View Data Pledge, and as we increase our quality granularity with more measurable metrics in 2019 that transparency will be even more important.

Privacy will also be more central in 2019, with GDPR starting to settle in the EU and US companies getting ready for CCPA in California by 2020. Being compliant is one thing, but more importantly, GDPR and CCPA are signals that we all have to be smarter about how we build products from location data. Location data and insights will be transformative for the world and will enable all of us to take better decisions for both the benefit of humanity and the environment - but only if we build upon the trust of the end user and don’t sacrifice their personal data safety and integrity to achieve industry goals. At Unacast we not only believe this to be possible but that it will form the basis of even stronger location data products.

That said, we need the whole human mobility data space to rally behind us on these matters. We’ll continue to lead and charge forward, but we can’t go the whole journey alone. We are optimistic that the industry will join us.

So, thank you all for an exciting 2018, and I’ll see you in 2019.