June 12, 2013, Updated June 13, 2013

After weeks of speculation, Google has officially bought Waze. The giant search engine paid a whopping $1.03 billion – the largest sum ever paid for a mobile application.

“I am excited to announce today that we have accepted an offer to join Google,” CEO Noam Bardin wrote on the Waze blog upon publication that a deal was made. “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.”

Bardin explains on the blog that the Israeli crowd-sourced navigation application wanted to sell to avoid the standard initial public offering route for startups as it would have changed the company’s focus from a product for users to one focused on returns. “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.”

Waze was in talks with Apple and Facebook in the past few months but did not go through with a deal because it reportedly stressed keeping an Israeli presence.

Google announced it would keep Waze’s operations in Ra’anana — at least, for now. “The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now,” Brian McClendon, Google’s VP of Geo, wrote in the blog post announcing the deal. “We’re excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities.”

The Google-Waze acquisition was front page news in Israel, once again reiterating the Startup Nation’s preeminence in high-tech. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the company’s heads to congratulate them on the sale.

“Congratulations, you reached the goal! You put Israeli technology on the global map! You are also contributing to state coffers,
which is welcome at this time. I am waiting for your next start-up! You have done exceptional work,” Netanyahu said.

The Waze buyout will also benefit Tmura – the Israeli Public Service Venture Fund – to the tune of $1.5 million. Waze, with the support of its early stage investors Magma and Vertex, as well as the involvement of law firm GKH, contributed options to Tmura in 2011.

Tmura offers companies a unique way to contribute to the community. Instead of soliciting cash donations, Tmura receives grants of stock from companies and uses the proceeds from successful “exits” – a public offering, acquisition or sale of shares on the market – to fund education- and youth-related charities in Israel.

“It’s wonderful to see that Waze has become such a huge success coming out of Israel’s high-tech industry,“ said Baruch Lipner, Tmura’s Executive Director. “It is just as special to see the company – and so many other Tmura donors in the start-up nation – so committed to giving back to our community as well.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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