There have been speculations for the past few months saying big tech firms are looking to acquire Waze, a fast-growing community-based traffic and GPS application for mobile phones currently available freely on AppStore and GooglePlay.
Waze was founded in 2007 and has raised some $67 million in VC funding from backers including Kleiner Perkins, BlueRun Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and Li Ka-shing. In February the company claimed it had grown to 40 million registered users, some of whom it picked up during Apple’s mapgate troubles. Waze has offices in the U.S. and Israel — the latter being where its R&D is based.
What is it about Waze that could make it so attractive to such tech heavyweights? Waze provides crowd-sourced information; users wave their hands over their mobile device while driving to vocally report traffic or hazardous conditions. Updating in real time based on that information, the app delivers accurate assessments of current traffic, road closures, and alternative routes efficiently. Waze is unique compared to other map and navigation system as its users can report their current real-time traffic conditions so that others on the same route will know whether there’s smooth sailing ahead or an irritating bottleneck. The app also provides information on gas prices, local ATMs and places to grab a bite to eat.
While Google is still building more social information into its new Maps product, and Facebook is looking to make its social data more mobile and user-friendly, Waze has already offered technology that marries the two. The most recent speculations were focused on a reported bid from Google, which Bloomberg wrote may be competing with a similar bid from Facebook – a few months after rumors that Apple was also interested in the company.
With about 47 million users, Waze already has a strong social community. It was named the “Best Connected Product” at the 2013 Webby Awards, and after Apple chief executive Tim Cook mentioned it as a strong maps program in his apology to users after releasing the much-maligned Apple Maps, Waze even got a boost. According to the company, the application added 3.6 million users in March alone. Around 37 percent of the total user base is considered active (those who use the application regularly) and spend 440 minutes per month in the application.