Started in 2008 in Israel, born out of one man’s frustration with his GPS, Waze is now one considered among the top navigation apps. The community-driven app has also gained love from users in South East Asia, with Malaysia and Indonesia being in the list of top 10 user country globally.
During its recent visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, Waze announced that it has reached 50 million users. Additionally, the app won the ‘Best Overall Mobile App’ award at the 2013 Mobile World Congress, beating Dropbox, Flipboard and others. The rapid growth attracted both, Facebook and Google to pursue its acquisition. On June 11, 2013, Google completed the acquisition for a reported US$1.3 billion, higher than the value of Instagram, which acquired by Facebook for US$1 billion.
In an exclusive conversation with e27, Julie Mosler, Senior Director of Communications, Waze, shares latest updates.
Julie Mosler, Senior Director of Communications, Waze
How is the growth of Waze user base in Indonesia? Growth has been steady, with an incredible spike right after our press conference with Vice Governor Pak Ahok in November. Waze continues to attract new users in Jakarta at an incredible rate — as long as traffic is an issue, our service will be one of the most comprehensive in the marketplace.
What do you think is the key factor behind Waze’s success? Is it smart algorithm? Or is crowdsourcing ? Waze began in 2008, born out of one man’s frustration with his GPS. He thought traditional GPS directions could be improved by tracking local drivers’ speeds, and allowing them to add incidents like car accidents or traffic jams. This would help them drive around traffic, and be aware to change their route if road conditions changed. The people would edit the map. It was an incredibly strange idea at the time. However, after hacking the machine, he was able to convince the local community to begin editing the map! Without the support of marketing or advertising, the service grew from Israel, to the US, to nearly 200 countries it serves today.
Competitors are beginning to add real-time traffic alerts — but they only tell you that a road is slow, not why the jam is occurring. Waze is the pioneer in traffic services because we provide context — our users have the power to tell other drivers why they should avoid a route. The “why” empowers drivers to make the most educated decision and continue their drive without the stress of selecting a different route.
What makes people contribute? People are fundamentally good; they want to help those around them. Whether your motivation is to help other drivers or just cut down on your own time in the car. Traffic is a universal problem that is made exponentially better when using Waze. For many of our drivers, they’re motivated to edit the map because Waze is ‘their’ map — they do not have an accurate alternative in their neighbourhood and they want to make their local Waze map the best it can be.
What are the changes the Google acquisition brought with it? More resources. We are now able to hire the roles we need without being limited by a startup budget; we can visit international partners in-market to better understand local needs; and hopefully grow even faster than we did on our own. Google as a company knows how to study data and the world’s maps, and we have learned a lot from its team.
Has there been any conclusive development post your visit to Indonesia? Are you partnering with any local institution? It was wonderful to meet the Vice Governor in person — we are very much aligned in our mission to serve local citizens and improve their day-to-day commute. Nothing to announce yet, but Waze is currently involved in discussions with several notable partners in Indonesia and is dedicated to investing in the region. We’ve also hired a business development executive who will be largely focused on growing SEA in the next two years.