Startup Watch: Waze

Mobile-GPS App Taps Users to Improve Real-Time Navigation

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THE STRATEGY:
Waze is a third-party GPS app -- and competitor to Google's and Apple's map software -- that relies on crowdsourcing to improve its data and offer live updates on local traffic, speed traps and alternative routes. It also taps users to gather information on gas-station locations and fuel prices. Once it records enough fuel prices, Waze activates a "Cheap Fuel" locator, which is available in the U.S., U.K., and Latvia, and likely coming soon to Sweden, Italy, France and Germany.

HOW IT WORKS:
The GPS passively gathers data on traffic slowdowns, detours and back routes, but users can also proactively push traffic updates to the network, record roads that aren't already on the map and submit corrections and edits to existing maps. The result is a social-mobile system that helps users, primarily commuters, choose the best route possible at any given time, accounting for traffic in real time.

WHO'S INVOLVED:
Ehud Shabtai, Uri Levine, Noam Bardin and Amir Shinar founded Waze, with funding from BlueRun Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, Kleiner Perkins and others.

PROSPECTS:
Waze employs location-based ads for revenue, but features like the dynamic gas prices could lead to local-commerce integrations. Perhaps the biggest sign of potential success: Apple endorsed the app as an alternative to its own botched iOS Maps application.

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