‘Social Driving App’ Waze Raises $25 Million In Series B Round


More activity in the area of location-aware, social apps: Waze, an app that builds up driving and navigation data by crowd sourcing information from other drivers, has raised $25 million in a Series B round led by Bue Run Ventures. Among the other investors, Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) Ventures joins existing backers that include Magma Venture Partners and Vertex Venture Capital.

Noam Bardin, the CEO, tells us that the funding will be used to expand the company as it relocates its headquarters to Palo Alto from Tel Aviv, as well as build up infrastructure and for business development.

Waze currently has 2.2 million users, most of them in the U.S., using the app on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and other smartphone platforms.

Waze provides turn-by-turn GPS navigation, using real-time pictures of roads in your area – where are the traffic jams, roadworks and police traps, for example. It creates its maps through information supplied by users who have downloaded the Waze mobile app.

Users can check-in and upload the information themselves, but before you start thinking that this sounds like a dangerous idea, Bardin notes that a lot of data actually updates on its own: in fact, the app can tell when the vehicle is moving and at that point won’t let you enter any information into your device.

Some details of the Waze system sound a bit sketchy, literally.

Take cities where there are few or no users. A quick look at the Waze map for the dense neighborhood where I live in London looked more like a remote bit of countryside: very few streets, and even fewer names for the ones that were there. It will take some avid smartphone users, who happen also to be avid drivers, to make that map of London into something more useful.

Waze is also trying to lure people into getting more involved, thereby feeding the Waze maps more data, by creating “geo-games” that send them driving around to collect badges and other rewards, in a Pac-Man-like setup.

Bardin says that Waze already generates revenue by licensing crowd-sourced traffic data, but longer term it sees more value in advertising and marketing services based around users’ locations. He expects the first such commercial service to launch in the U.S. in February 2011.

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