Data Duopoly: Adapting to promote sustainable travel and net zero

Data Duopoly uses data and AI to connect spaces, places and people together, by giving companies insights about how customers are using their services.

Originally created to solve overcrowding issues at tourist attractions, The Pitch alumni Data Duopoly has pivoted its focus to how its technology can improve and promote the use of sustainable transport options.

We spoke to founder Tanuvi Ethunandan about Data Duopoly’s journey so far, her hopes for the business going forward and how the biggest business challenge in recent times presented a golden opportunity.

Helping tourists to navigate attractions

Data Duopoly started life with an idea to help organisations improve their visitor experience. 

“We started with the premise that visitor attractions knew how many people were there, but not how people moved around. They didn’t have an easy way to redirect people away from the bottlenecks,” Tanuvi said.

And so the idea was born: a white label mobile app that gave visitors a personalised route to navigate around and avoid the crowds.

Adapting to change – and inspiration strikes

But it wasn’t long before Tanuvi spotted a new opportunity: using Data Duopoly’s tech to help visitors explore a new area and get around using public transport.

Tanuvi’s decision to venture down this route was heavily influenced by the Covid pandemic and the ongoing challenges facing the high street.

“The conversations we were having were put on hold because suddenly they’re firefighting, venues were open then closed. At the time, local councils were intrigued about how we could use our technology to rejuvenate the high street,” she said.

“Where we saw a huge opportunity was working with transportation. Knowing where to explore from a transportation hub like the train station, an e-scooter pick-up or a bus stop, is actually a really big challenge. It’s a barrier for people using sustainable transport options.”

Providing insights for transport providers

So the business pivoted to meet this challenge, and Data Duopoly now provides a plugin which helps people to explore local areas by using their location to guide them towards fantastic things that are nearby.

But the true power of the data isn’t in helping visitors find places to go: it’s in helping transport operators to understand who is using their services and what for.

“Using de-identified and anonymised data, we can provide data back to the transport operator. For example, we can tell them that someone gets off at the mall, then walks 20 minutes to the National Maritime Museum, then has to walk 20 minutes back to the bus stop. That’s a 40-minute round trip.

“If someone has a pushchair or reduced mobility or they’ve got luggage, it isn’t very convenient. That’s really influential information that operators can use to determine new profitable bus routes, and actually expand services wherever needed,” Tanuvi explained.

Data Duopoly’s advantage is that their technology can plug seamlessly into customers’ journeys.

“How do you get someone to download an app for the high street? It’s quite hard. But if we work with transport operators, people already have the bus app or the train app on their phone, and it’s just a plugin. And it allows transport operators to compete with the likes of Google and Citymapper, keep people on the platform and use location data of where people are going to drive improvements to public services,” Tanuvi said.

Securing funding and impressing Innovate UK

Data Duopoly made it through to The Pitch Final in 2019. In early 2021, they closed a first seed round of almost a quarter of a million pounds. That gave them capital to build and test the technology, then secure their first paying client, the National Trust.

The next big opportunity for the business came in the form of funding from Innovate UK.

“Innovate UK saw in our technology that we’ve been working with the tourism sector and can encourage the use of leisure travel by public transport. That is going to be a huge area of focus, with business travel reduced as a result of hybrid working. And it’s better for the environment, with the big push for net zero,” Tanuvi said. 

“We were selected by the government as one of 10 SMEs nationally to present at The Shard about how tech can help achieve net zero.” 

“Innovate UK saw in our technology that we’ve been working with the tourism sector and can encourage the use of leisure travel by public transport.”

Tanuvi Ethunandan, founder of Data Duopoly

A simple piece of advice

Tanuvi says the one thing she wishes she had known when starting Data Duopoly is that it’s OK not to know everything at the start. 

“I came from being a chartered accountant and it’s very methodical, very well planned. But even the best-designed business plan couldn’t have forecasted the Covid pandemic. So be adaptable and be prepared to ask founders in completely different sectors what their experience was, and learn from them. That will help you even if you don’t see the direct connection immediately,” she said.

Got a great idea that solves a problem like Data Duopoly, and want to pitch it to a panel of investors? It won’t be long before you can apply for The Pitch 2024. Sign up to our mailing list and we’ll send you an alert as soon as applications open.

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Sian Cahill

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