2,527 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
The discussion stayed in the boardroom, but the two companies may be considering a partnership, or Facebook may be looking to purchase the company. A Waze representative declined to comment on the rumors.
Founded in 2008, Waze has raised $67 million to date, most recently in late 2011. The Palo Alto-based company retains an office in Israel, where it was founded.
Several months ago, news emerged that the company is going to collaborate with Apple for its upcoming iOS6 Maps application. It remains to be seen how Facebook’s interest in the app will affect its partnership with Apple.
In many ways, Waze acts like traditional navigation software, offering directions to destinations and highlighting points of interest. But thanks to the power of crowdsourcing, the app’s functionality far exceeds your dad’s GPS. When a user drives around with the app open on his or her smartphone, Waze calculates the speed of the car and updates the traffic report in real time. Users can also submit more detailed information, like where the cops, nearest and cheapest gas stations, and road hazards are, for example.
Like other crowdsourcing ventures, Waze emphasizes its community (hence the app’s motto: “Outsmarting Traffic, Together”). When users open the app, they can see who is around them, how fast other drivers are going, and all the reports their peers submitted. While drivers’ speed is submitted passively, Waze developers have figured out a way to allow users to submit additional information hands-free, using smartphones’ proximity sensor features.
The company believes that traffic information is essential for drivers, and that in today’s environment of constant connectivity, there should be an easy way to find out what is happening on the road ahead of you.
“It’s your obligation to know what’s happening on the road, because it will help you make your decisions along the way,” Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski, Waze’s director of communications, told Crowdsourcing.org. “It’s really great to see people help each other.” With 24 million users, there is certainly a lot of help going around.
One of the app’s newest features is crowdsourced gas prices. Much like it sounds, Waze collects and constantly verifies the per-gallon prices at various gas stations. Besides being a simple tool, the feature serves as an example of Waze’s “location-guided” advertising model that helps the company pay its bills.
“In the past few years, location-based advertising was very important,” Habdank-Kolaczkowski said. “If you’re walking past a Macy’s, you expect to get a coupon from there. But that’s still not entirely useful to you, because maybe you didn’t plan on even going to Macy’s. We’re working on location-guided advertising, where we know that, one, you’re already in the car. Two, you’re on the way to doing something, so you have intent. Three, there are resources that you need along the way, whether it’s gas or an oil change, or a coffee shop that you didn’t even know existed, but today, they give you free coffee. We offer drivers not just a commercial, but a value-add.”
Aside from expanding and improving its features, Waze is also working on three larger projects that can help propel it into the mainstream. The first is Waze.tv, which lets television stations use the app for their coverage of traffic news. Due to the added publicity, Habdank-Kolaczkowski claims the number of users in Los Angeles, where a station partnered with Waze, doubled in about a month and a half. Currently, he says, there are 800,000 Waze users in L.A., accounting for ten percent of the city’s registered vehicles.
Habdank-Kolaczkowski says the company wants to leverage these numbers to further the company’s second project: getting inside cars – “in the dashboard” – sometime next year. That doesn’t mean that the app is looking to compete with traditional GPS devices, however.
“If I want to go to Lake Tahoe, [on a GPS, I can get] the directions for my five-hour drive there. It’s fine, but that’s not really what we’re trying to be. When you get in your car, you put on a seatbelt to get there safely, and you put on Waze to get there on time. We want to be your navigation companion,” he explained.
Waze’s third project is its collaboration with Apple, helping the tech giant build a replacement for Google Maps. Though the news had been out for some time, Habdank-Kolaczkowski declined to comment on the topic.
Eric Blattberg contributed to this report.