One of the many joys of exploring a city like Taipei is its maze of lanes and alleyways, which are lined with small shops, incense-filled temples and leafy parks. The downside is wrangling with addresses like this: 台北市南港區八德路四段768巷1弄18號B1之1 (B1-1, No. 18, Alley 1, Lane 768, Bade Rd Sec 4, Nangang District, Taipei City). A new startup called POcode (which stands for “post office code”) wants to help businesses in cities with equally serpentine non-English addresses attract customers and prevent them from getting lost on their way over.
POcode’s Web app generates an eight to 12 digit alphanumeric code for individual addresses that users can enter on its site to pull up a Web page with a map, directions and venue information. Each page also includes location coordinates in several formats (decimal, DMS, UTM, GPS) as well as a QR code and Microsoft tags (see an example here).
Founders Mark Lee and Phil Foo, who are based in Malaysia, say navigation tools like GPS devices are often cumbersome to use when searching for addresses written in non-Roman alphabet languages. Potential competitors include address shorteners and Google Places, but Lee hopes businesses will use POcode because it gives them an easy to way to build a Web presence. The site plans to market to users in countries with languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet, such as Chinese, Russian, Korea, Japanese or Arabic. Use cases include restaurants and stores that want to attract expatriates who can’t read the local language or people throwing parties who don’t want guests to get lost.
Lee says he came up with the idea for POcode while trying to direct clients to his media production company on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. After confusing GPS directions led several people astray, Lee built a site with a map, pictures that showed his building from several angles, four different kinds of coordinates and a QR Code and Microsoft Tag.
As POcode grows, it will add features like an analytics dashboard that will let users see who is viewing their information, as well as an inbox messaging system so customers can reach business owners directly from the site. Lee says POcode will monetize through premium features such as custom POcodes, including ones with the digit 8, an auspicious number in Chinese culture, or easy-to-memorize codes.
Lee and Foo are currently bootstrapping the developing of their site with their savings, as well as ad revenue from their online magazine The Asian Angler, which grew out of their mutual passion for fly fishing.