Google is considering buying Israeli mobile satellite navigation startup Waze, which may lead to a bidding war with Facebook, Bloomberg news reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Waze is seeking more than $1 billion and is fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties, said Bloomberg, citing a source.
Other media have reported that Facebook has held talks to buy Waze for as much as $1 billion.
Google and other parties approached Waze after the Facebook talks became public but none of the bidders are close to clinching a deal, Bloomberg said, adding that the startup might decide to remain independent.
Waze could not immediately be reached for comment. Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Waze uses satellite signals from members’ smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic info.
Check your news feed: Facebook is getting significantly fewer likes these days – but not in Israel.
If you have a second window open in your Web browser while reading this story, chances are, it’s open to Facebook. But while the world’s most famous social network is undoubtedly popular, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center proves that more and more Americans are saying that their relationship with Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild is complicated.
According to the survey, which was published in February, 62% of American users have taken a “break” from Facebook for at least a few weeks. And according to an article from Reuters last month, investors in the cutting-edge tech hub of Silicon Valley have been flocking to a handful of newer, fresher social networks preferred by young people.
Israelis, however, are in a happy and committed relationship with the network, according the recent comScore survey, which shows them spending more time per month on the site than users from any other nation.
Elad Brindt Shavit, Facebook account manager for the Israeli market, says that on average, Israelis spend 11 hours a month a Facebook, a figure that has held steady for the past two years.
Brindt Shavit says that Israel has 4 million Facebook users, and they log on several times a month. The number of “likes” handed out by Israelis has more than doubled in the past year, climbing from 300 million in 2012 to 764 million in 2013 to date.
And of course, let’s not forget the young couple from Tel Aviv who named their baby “Like” in 2011, in perhaps the greatest act of solidarity with the network to date.
There has also been growth in the number of replies to posts, which now stands at 120 million per month. Israelis update their statuses 13 million times a month.
Sixty percent of Israeli Facebook members log onto the social network on a daily basis. Male users edge out female users 52% to 48%.
According to Brindt Shavit, older Israelis are also using the network more. Currently, 9 percent of Israeli Facebook users are 55 or older and 8 percent are between 45 and 55.
But most Israeli Facebookers are young. 13 percent of them are between 13 and 17 years old; 28 percent are between 18 and 24; 27 percent are between 25 and 34; and 15 percent are ages 35 to 44.
Facebook may be aiming to spend anywhere from $800 million to $1 billion to acquire Waze, an Israel-based company that offers a social GPS app for drivers.
Talks reportedly kicked off six months ago, according to Israeli business site Calcalist, which says that due diligence is currently underway, meaning the two companies are checking each other out before signing on the dotted line. The two also have signed a term sheet, or an agreement in principle on the sale, according to Calcalist.
An agreement sounds like it could be close. However, sources close to Waze told the Times of Israel that a deal is not necessarily imminent. The two companies haven’t yet signed a memorandum of understanding, nor has Facebook apparently called any banks to finance the purchase.
Available for the iPhone, Android phones, and Windows Phone, Waze is a free mobile app that helps drivers wend their way through traffic via live maps, traffic updates, and turn-by-turn navigation. The social aspect comes into play as fellow Waze users can actually help ease your commute.
Any traffic jams or other obstacles faced by nearby Waze users automatically appear on the Waze map on your device. Other Waze drivers can also send out alerts of slow or hazardous traffic conditions to help you avoid them. Waze now counts around 45 million users. In March, 1.5 million people downloaded the mobile app, according to Calcalist.
Waze updated its app in October 2012 to allow users to sign in through Facebook to look up links near their destination and send messages to their friends.
Stormfall is a game in which players build a castle, wield weapons, fight dragons, and raise armies of barbarians and necromancers. It is accessible to players all over the world, via Facebook. Playing Stormfall is free. It is one of the fastest-growing computer games among Facebook users and it was developed in Israel.
According to news reports, five of Facebook’s 10 largest social games in the critical Europe and Middle East region come from Israel. Some of the games are deep and multi-layered, like Stormfall. Others, like Slotomania, are fun time-killers – but also developed in Israel’s high-tech coastal plain – Silicon Wadi.
Speaking at a European gaming conference, Julien Codorniou, who heads Facebook’s gaming developers, said Israeli programmers have proved especially skilled at coming up with multi-platform games that start on PC, then get ported to mobile phones, and eventually to Apple.
Codorniou pointed to the success of Playtika as another facet of Israel’s gaming advantage: Its programmers have turned out to be skilled at simulating gambling.
The trend for Facebook gamers, he said, was away from first-person-shooters, which more and more are being seen as gratuitously violent. The Facebook gamer these days wants either casual entertainment, or an immersive hard core gamer experience with outstanding production values.
Another change, Codorniou said, is that the center of gaming design is shifting away from the US and the Far East. Today, 70% of growing gaming companies on Facebook, are European.
Currently, Facebook has about 250 million players a month, making it a larger playing platform, than all game consoles combined. In future, more and more, they will be playing games made in Israel.
Nir Goldshlager, a “white hat” hacker who has tested computer security systems for some of the biggest companies in the world, is once again a hero. For the second year running, Goldshlager is the No. 1 name in Facebook’s security “hall of fame,” featured on a page thanking hackers “for making a responsible disclosure to us, on behalf of over a billion users.” Goldshlager also appeared on the list in 2011, in second place.
Doppelganger Week, which began on February 2, has been a boon for MyHeritage, with some half a million browers expected to join the Israeli site by the end of the week.
During Doppelganger Week, being observed for the third year, many social network users exchange their profile picture for an image of someone else who resembles them.
MyHeritage, which is developing a social network and mobile application to enable users to create a family tree, also offers browsers the option of identifying celebrities who resemble them.
Two days ago the application was downloaded 104,932 times, with more than 940,000 photographs uploaded to the application, according to data provided by the company. The peak came between 7 PM and 8 PM, when the application was downloaded more than 14,000 times. By yesterday, the third day of Doppelganger Week, more than 338,000 photographs had been uploaded in attempts to identify suitable doubles. Currently, the application is being downloaded at an average rate of 6,200 times an hour. By the time the week ends, on February 9, it is estimated that at least half a million browsers will have joined the site.
MyHeritage, founded in 2003, employs 130 personnel, 80 of whom work in the company’s Israeli headquarters in Bnei Atarot, a moshav just north of Ben-Gurion International Airport. In November, the company raised $25 million in an investment round spearheaded by Bessemer Venture Partners, which joined Index Ventures and Excel Partners, the company’s earlier investors. This round brings the total investment in the company up to $49 million.
In addition to completing the round, the company announced its largest purchase –its competitor, Geni. According to some estimates, MyHeritage earnings have totaled over $20 million annually. The company’s business model is based on subscribers, some of whom pay for services.