June 11, 2013
Google reportedly outbids fellow tech giants Apple and Facebook and buys Israel-based social-mapping service Waze for roughly $1 billion, adding the user-generated data of the app to the market-leading Google Maps software. It is one of the largest market exits for an Israeli tech start-up company.
At the time of the purchase, Waze has about 50 million users, but its value comes from its real-time integration of information from drivers, including accidents, backups, gas prices and speed traps. The application uses such data to create constantly updated, optimized routes for drivers. In addition to better routes, Waze’s appeal includes games, participation rewards and other social features. Waze and Google are the only companies with fully designed, real-time, user-generated mapping.
Waze grew out of a program called FreeMap Israel that programmer Ehud Shabtai launched in 2006 to crowd-source an interactive map of Israel. Shabtai formed Waze as a company in 2008. At the time of the sale, Waze has about 100 employees in Israel and 10, including CEO Noam Bardin, in Palo Alto, California. Google plans to maintain Waze’s structure and Israeli workforce.
Waze’s partners include Apple and Facebook. Facebook users can share their Waze mapping routes with friends, and Waze provides some mapping information for Apple Maps. Waze also works with governments to integrate their traffic and emergency information and distribute that knowledge to its users.