Google May Outbid Facebook For Waze
May 24, 2013

Is Google Angling To Outbid Facebook For Waze?

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Google Maps is a frontrunner in the mapping and navigation market for both traditional PCs and smartphones. However, startups have been known to edge in to take a little slice of the pie by offering unique features. Until Google tries to buy them.

The search-engine giant is currently in talks to buy map software provider Waze Inc, sources told Bloomberg recently.

News that Google is talking to Waze comes just two weeks after rumors surfaced that Facebook was interested in acquiring the company. The startup is seeking upwards of $1 billion, which could increase if Google and Facebook get into a bidding war. It is also likely that other companies are included in the acquisition talks.

"None of the bidders is close to clinching a deal, and the talks may fall apart," Bloomberg reports from sources. "Waze may also walk away from the discussions and use more venture backing to expand its mapping program, which has more than 40 million users."

Waze adds a layer of crowdsourcing to maps by having users update traffic conditions and other factors that affect navigation and other events each day. Google could use the real-time traffic data for its navigation. It could also use the crowdsourced data for social features to boost Google+ and other platforms.

The joint Israeli-Silicon Valley startup received funding from venture capital firms that included Blue Run Ventures, Magma Venture Partners and Vertex Venture Capital as well as follow-up cash from Kleiner Perkins and Li Ka-shing's Horizon Ventures. The company received $30 million in its 2011 round of funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Horizon Ventures.

If an acquisition doesn't go through — that is, if Waze doesn´t bite on any of the offers — analysts say the company will likely seek another round of venture capital funding. The company offers its apps and services for free to its users, making money instead from location-based advertising. As a private company, it remains unknown how much Waze is currently pulling down in advertising revenue and whether this is a sustainable business model.

Apple is said to have been in talks with Waze in January, Apple Insider reports. The service would help enhance Apple's much criticized mapping system for iOS devices.

Waze currently provides its map service free as an iOS app in the Apple Store. Social features are layered onto the navigation mapping, such as community-generated real-time routing that suggests alternate routes if traffic is too heavy on the set route, and live maps that include an accident reporting system.

The mapping startup has been in the news for more than just acquisition rumors lately. Last month Waze set up a deal with Internet Media Services (IMS) to help the service expand into Latin America. Waze currently has a presence, and service, in the United States, Italy, Spain and Israel. The company also announced a deal with Clarion in January that brings Waze social traffic and navigation to Clarion's Smart Access Cloud Server.