After long negotiations and months of speculation, Google announced Tuesday that it had purchased Israeli navigation company Waze in what has been defined as the most expensive application acquisition in history. The deal is valued at $1.1 billion.
This is a rare achievement for the Raanana-based company's founders - Uri Levine, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar – and CEO Noam Bardin, who within five years turned Waze into one of the most popular mapping applications in the world, which serves some 50 million users on a daily basis.
Waze achieved all the demands it presented to Google in the negotiations: Waze's activity will remain in Israel for years, Google cannot fire a single employee out of Waze's 107 workers, and the entire acquisition sum – about $1 billion – will go into the pockets of the investors, founders and employees in cash, without stocks whose value would change unexpectedly.
Google will complete the acquisition within about a month in a bid to integrate Waze into the Android 5.0 operating system, expected to be launched this year.
'Google shares our vision'
"I am excited to announce today that we have accepted an offer to join Google," Bardin said in a statement to Waze users. "I’d like to share some information about what this means for Waze.
"Larry Page, Brian McClendon and the Google Maps teams have been following our progress closely and are excited about what we’ve accomplished. They share our vision of a global mapping service, updated in real time by local communities, and wish to help us accelerate. We are excited about the prospect of working with the Google Maps team to enhance our search capabilities and to join them in their ongoing efforts to build the best map of the world.
"Nothing practical will change here at Waze. We will maintain our community, brand, service and organization – the community hierarchy, responsibilities and processes will remain the same. The same Waze people will continue to collaborate with you, and we will continue to innovate our product and services, making them more social, functional and helpful for everyday drivers. Our employees, managers, founders and I are all committed to our vision for many years to come.
"Why not stay completely independent? We asked ourselves: “Will Waze still be a fun project to participate in, and a fun place to work, as a stand-alone public company?” Choosing the path of an IPO often shifts attention to bankers, lawyers and the happiness of Wall Street, and we decided we’d rather spend our time with you, the Waze community.
Google is committed to help us achieve our common goal and provide us with the independence and resources we need to succeed. We evaluated many options and believe Google is the best partner for Waze, our map editors, area managers, champs and nearly 50 million Wazers globally.
"Together, we can accelerate our mission to outsmart traffic. We will continue to make a real impact on drivers globally, helping them save time and money while making everyone’s daily commute a bit more efficient and fun.
"So, it’s back to work for us with some great new colleagues and resources to enhance our project. Thank you for your participation in shaping Waze to what it is today, and we look forward to continuing to build out Waze together with you."
Google Inc. is believed to have trumped two of its fiercest foes, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc., in the bidding for Waze. The startup is based in Israel but also maintains a Palo Alto, California, office near all three of the Silicon Valley giants.
Waze was founded in 2007. Noam Bardin, who lives in the United States, serves as its CEO.
The company's application is considered the world's biggest social network-based navigation app thanks to 45 million users and a market share of 10% of all navigation apps in the US.
In the past year, Waze tripled its number of subscribers from 15 million to 45 million, and in March alone it had 1.5 million downloads around the world.
Waze is today the second most popular map and navigation app in Apple stores, after Google's map service, in the US, Canada, France and Australia.