Melbourne-based urban tech startup Neighbourlytics will use $1.25 million in newly secured seed investment on boosting its tech capabilities and scaling up the platform that’s geared to assessing quality of life across entire cities.
The startup, cofounded by Jessica Christiansen-Franks and Lucinda Hartley, pools publicly-available data from social media and other information sources to depict time the unique social fabric of a neighbourhood in real time.
Backed by BlueChilli Venture Fund as part of their SheStarts program in 2017, the company has since been attracted the backing of property industry leader and RBA board member, Carol Schwartz AO, to lead the seed funding round.
Led by Schwartz’s Trawalla Group, the seed round was supported by Scale Investors, Artesian and a number of individual angel investors.
According to cofounder Lucinda Hartley, there’s always pressure to raise capital early as a startup but fortunately Neighbourlytics was able to hold off for 18 months because there was enough revenue coming in from its standard products.
That gave the team a chance to learn what their customers want to know from the data.
She says one thing customers were asking for was ongoing access to the data to see trends over time – why a place is used differently in summer rather than winter, for instance – rather than just one-off reports that capture what’s happening in a location at one point in time.
That’s why the service will become available as a subscription-based software as a service model, allowing customers to observe trends developing over time.
The seed funding will be funnelled into building the company’s technology capabilities in front end development and software. The product itself built by the data analytics team isn’t changing, according to Hartley, just how people use it.
There’s also been interest from councils wanting to measure the quality of life and wellbeing of larger geographies than just single neighbourhoods.
The plan is to make the tool available on a larger scale so that councils can see their entire municipalities or a property developer can measure its entire portfolio.
The company has recently played a role in the Switching on Darwin project, which involves leveraging smart technology to improve wellbeing and community life in the city.
Using the data gathered from the sensors and other smart technology, the startup has been able to determine if quality of life is actually improving.
The global spotlight on wellbeing is driving demand
Hartley says the success of the platform so far can be partly explained by the global focus on social sustainability and wellbeing. “It’s the next frontier in best practice and design.
“International research has shown your postcode is more likely to determine your life expectancy than your genetic code. So the strengths of a place can be critical to our health and happiness.”
Hartley says although the importance of social wellbeing is now well proven, it’s traditionally been hard to measure.
“Our data provides a rare opportunity to understand those unique strengths of a neighbourhoods and how they influence the social wellbeing of its population.”
She said the new benchmarking tools under development will allow countries like New Zealand, which has recently released its first “wellbeing budget”, to build these insights into wellbeing measurements.
Hartley also sees the data tools coming in handy for peak bodies responsible for setting standards.
“It’s really hard to get the data, that’s where there’s real interest.”