Waze CEO: We're completely different from Google

Noam Bardin says Waze is different from Google in how much it trusts users and how it builds data.

Ive never worked at a large company. I never had a badge, said Waze CEO Noam Bardin, who led the navigation company to acquisition by Google last year, addressing the Social Traffic panel at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in Munich. DLD is a joint venture of Dr. Hubert Burda and Dr. Yossi Vardi, who together chair the event. I would say that if anyone is out to be acquired by anyone, Google is definitely the company to acquire you. These guys know what theyre doing, said Bardin.

Bardin discussed the partnership with Google since the deal, and explained that Waze functions as a completely independent company, in terms of the application, marketing, PR, and other departments, but that the two companies do collaborate in some specific ways. Our search is now Google search, and we send our incidents to Google Maps, he said.

Asked about the differences between Waze and other navigation apps, Bardin explained, Were at an interesting stage in the mobile ecosystem, where every phone comes with a map app, and this map app has to deliver a very horizontal experience. You need to know your transit - your driving, your walking directions, your bicycle directions - all these different things. Apple has theirs, Nokia has theirs, Google has theirs, and at Waze weve taken one use-case, and weve gone very deep on that use-case. Our use-case is commuting, and when you leave your home every day, you should be turning on Waze, and were going to try and save you five to ten minutes a day. Were going to look at alternate routes, and were going to try and figure out what has changed since the last time you drove. For this weve built a map of our own, and a real-time traffic service. Its about being the first ones to know whats going on, and to be actionable about it. To try and find a better route, or a better way to do things.

We are very, very different from Google, in everything we do - how we build our data, how we deal with our community, and how much we trust users. If you compare feature by feature, many things about [Waze and Google Maps] may seem very similar, but when you actually try [Waze] out, its a very different, emotional experience, explains Bardin.

Bardin was asked whether in a world where Google has two navigation apps, Apple has one, and Nokia as well, Facebook and Twitter should have navigational apps as well. What really makes mobile different from traditional Internet is location. User location is a huge component of many different interesting services weve come out of mobile that could not have happened on the web. I think whether or not you need to own your own maps really depends on how you view yourself, he said, and hurried to explain, Do you need to own your own operating system? Google bought Android and it was considered a joke, and today its the most powerful operating system around, and they needed to own it, and they can do things because they own it that others cant. Microsoft ended up buying Nokias mobile business because they realized they need to own this. You look at Facebook and Twitter, they still have not come out and said we want to be your utility app for everything.

Regarding the question of how Waze makes money, Bardin responded, laughing, Now were part of Google, so it doesnt matter anymore. He continued, saying From the Google perspective, youve got to understand how to make billions of dollars. Thats the question weve been tasked with: is this a Google-scale business, or is this a nice business for a start-up. Thats really what 2014 is about for us.

Regarding the business model, Bardin said, We tried to ask ourselves, what can we do with our product that would actually provide value to the user? Weve built these ad units that are relevant to location, they actually bid on the back end between proximity and price, we limit the number of ads that you see, and they show up as icons of locations with brands. And from the advertisers perspective, we are trying to teach people about locations and brands and branches that are near them. Theyre on their commute, but they never knew about them. It is different from a search query, because you just didnt know that there was a [store] two blocks off your route, and you tend to go somewhere else, explained Bardin. I think whats been most amazing is really the demand from advertisers. Theyre trying to get in there, and theyre surprised by the performance - the performance has been really, really great.

Regarding privacy, Bardin said, I think that the most important thing is transparency. A user needs to understand why youre collecting data and for what purpose. If he doesnt think the purpose is good enough, he shouldnt give it to you. The quid pro quo on our app is you share information, and were going to give you the information from all the other users around you, and, together, were going to create a better experience for everyone. And, if you dont like that, you dont have to use Waze. If you use Waze, you can decide what information you want to share and what you dont, and I think that that transparency is the problem on some platforms, where its not clear - where users dont know what information is being collected, they dont know why its being collected, and they dont know for what purpose.

Regarding the question of privacy on Google, Bardin hurried to defend the boss: I know from the outside everyone loves to attack Google, but, overall, at Google, people really want to do good. Theres this challenge of building a better product or collecting more data, which could build a better product. So, at Waze, were trying to be very transparent about it, make the quid pro quo very clear to users, and let the users decide.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 20, 2014

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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