Israeli startup Waze, the providers of a free navigation and traffic app, received $30 million of financing in their latest round of funding. Funds and connections from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Digital Growth Fund and Li Ka Shing’s Horizons Ventures Hong Kong will enable Waze to finally penetrate the Asian market.
Waze’s app provides turn-by-turn audio navigation that takes into account crowd-sourced traffic data to provide the fastest rout to the driver’s destination. The app also functions as a social community where drivers can report hazards and engage with other users.
"Every day 25,000 users register," Waze CEO Noam Bardin boasted. He plans to use the new funding to develop the app for other devices. "If in the past we had one version suited to the iPhone, Android and the like, now we're developing applications for different phones, which will let the phones exploit their own unique qualities."
The service, which now boasts seven million users worldwide, is most prominent in Israel, Italy, France and the United States. To make inroads in Asia, Waze turned to greater China’s richest man, Ka Shing, who recently began investing in Israeli companies.
"You can't launch service in China without government permission," Bardin clarified. "Waze needs a strong Chinese partner who can lead its penetration. Li Ka-shing did that with Skype and with eBay in China. Now it will happen with Waze."
Efforts to monetize the free mobile application are running along two distinct tracks. After a successful partnership with ABC television to provide viewers with accurate information on the “Carmageddon” traffic debacle in July, Waze is in discussions with other networks to offer a similar service on a more permanent basis. Bardin also plans to explore location-based advertising, and is currently experimenting with an alpha platform and 25 advertisers.
To protect their investment, Horizons will appoint Jason Wong to Waze’s board. Wall Street’s Mary Meeker will join Josh Silverman, formerly of Skype, as strategic advisor and board observer for Waze.