How Does Waze Make Money? The Waze Business Model In A Nutshell

  • Waze is a Google-owned subsidiary that provides community-driven satellite navigation software. Waze was created to improve on existing car navigation systems which provided route-finding services with no consideration for traffic congestion.
  • Waze makes most of its money through advertising with a variety of novel and innovative ad types. Advertisers must pay a fee of $0.002 per impression, with a minimum daily ad spend for both small and large businesses.
  • Waze also makes money via carpool service fees, brand referral fees, and revenue earned from the sale of Waze beacons.



Origin story

Waze is a Google-owned subsidiary that provides community-driven satellite navigation software. The company was originally founded by Israeli entrepreneurs Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar, and Uri Levine in 2006.

The idea for Waze came from Shabtai, a computer science graduate who had difficulty using a car navigation system gifted to him by a friend.

The problem with these products at the time was that they incorporated an expensive GPS and built-in maps with no ability to forecast traffic congestion or other route delays.

In other words, they only showed a driver where to go to reach their destination.

Shabtai wanted to address this problem with a rather unusual idea.

He envisioned Waze to be a navigation system where each driver would construct the map as they traveled along the road.

The app would then collect the location of all active users in the system via GPS so that others could find less crowded routes and balance traffic flow.

Waze was then unveiled to Israeli users in late 2008 and had amassed 80,000 users by May of the following year.

The co-founders hired a new CEO, Noam Bardin, who then toured the United States to drum up support for the app’s eventual Blackberry release in 2009.

Since the success of the app relied on crowdsourced information, it needed to become available on as many platforms as possible.

This included the newly released iPhone, but also Nokia cell phones and even Windows.

The company also released a Pacman-esque game in the app with real prizes to increase user uptake.

In December 2011, Waze was available in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The company announced a partnership with no fewer than twelve American broadcast stations, incorporating Waze data in their traffic reports.

Growth from here was exponential, no doubt helped by Apple’s failed attempt to launch a similar map platform.

Sensing an opportunity, Google then acquired Waze for $1.1 billion in June 2013

With many people confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of miles driven on the platform decreased by as much as 70%.

Despite this, the company boasts around 140 million monthly active users around the world and is the second most popular map app behind Google Maps.

Value Proposition:

  • Waze offers real-time, community-driven navigation with the unique advantage of crowd-sourced traffic data.
  • Users benefit from accurate and up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic jams, accidents, and alternative routes.
  • Provides a more efficient and hassle-free commuting experience by helping users avoid traffic congestion.
  • Offers various advertising solutions that connect businesses with users during their commute.
  • Waze Carpool enables users to save money and reduce their environmental impact by carpooling with others.
  • Waze Beacons ensure uninterrupted navigation in tunnels, enhancing the overall user experience.

Customer Segments:

  • Individual Drivers: Commuters and travelers looking for real-time navigation and traffic information.
  • Businesses and Brands: Advertisers seeking to reach a highly engaged and location-aware audience.
  • Carpoolers: Users interested in carpooling to save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Government and Transportation Authorities: Entities interested in using Waze data for traffic management and infrastructure planning.

Distribution Strategy:

  • Mobile App: Waze primarily distributes its services through its mobile app, available on various platforms, including iOS and Android.
  • Integration: Partnerships with car manufacturers and navigation systems, integrating Waze into in-car infotainment systems.
  • APIs: Provides APIs and SDKs to allow other apps and platforms to integrate Waze’s navigation and traffic data.
  • Web Interface: Offers a web-based interface for route planning and information access.
  • Partnerships: Collaborates with government agencies, broadcast stations, and brands to extend its reach.

Marketing Strategy:

  • User-Generated Content: Encourages users to actively contribute data, creating a sense of community and engagement.
  • Partnerships: Forms strategic partnerships with broadcast stations, car manufacturers, and brands to promote Waze and its features.
  • In-App Advertising: Utilizes various ad formats within the app, including pin ads, search ads, takeover ads, and arrow ads.
  • Carpool Promotion: Promotes the benefits of carpooling through marketing campaigns.
  • Beacon Promotion: Markets Waze Beacons to governments and transportation authorities to improve tunnel navigation.
  • Word of Mouth: Relies on satisfied users to spread the word about the app’s effectiveness in avoiding traffic.

Waze revenue generation

Waze has a relatively diverse revenue generation strategy, making money from advertising, carpool service fees, brand referral fees, and the sale of its beacon hardware.

Without further ado, let’s delve into this strategy below.


Most Waze revenue comes from brands that pay to advertise on the platform. There are four different ways this can occur:

  1. Pin ads tell the user that a brand’s store lies along their driving route.
  2. Search ads appear when a driver searches for services such as gas stations.
  3. Takeover ads – these are billboards only displayed when the car has come to a stop.
  4. Arrow ads – these ads tell the driver that a participating business is nearby.

Waze earns money on a cost-per-impression (CPI) basis, with each impression costing the advertiser $0.002.

For smaller customers, advertising spend starts at $2 per day. Larger brands must spend at least $100 per day.

Waze Carpool

As the name suggests, Waze Carpool allows users to get paid by becoming carpool drivers.

Drivers keep 100% of the fare, which is normally determined by the distance traveled, the number of travelers in the carpool, and local gas prices.

However, the company charges a service fee in certain circumstances. This is a commission taken from the driver’s total payment.

Referral fees

Waze also partners with many brands and earns a referral fee when a Waze user purchases or subscribes to one of their products or services.

Unsurprisingly, many of these brands offer products that can be enjoyed whilst driving. Examples include Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, and YouTube Music.

Waze beacons

Waze beacons are installed in tunnels where the GPS signal is often lost. 

The beacon itself is a battery-operated device that sends a one-way signal to a user’s phone or tablet.

This allows Waze to continue routing drivers and collect traffic data from underground roads.

Each beacon device costs $28.50, with the company suggesting 42 beacons be installed for every mile of underground road.

Key Highlights

  • Founding and Origin Story: Waze, a Google-owned subsidiary, was founded in 2006 by Israeli entrepreneurs Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar, and Uri Levine. It was created to improve car navigation systems by incorporating real-time traffic data.
  • Business Model: Waze primarily generates revenue through advertising, offering various ad types to businesses. Advertisers pay on a cost-per-impression (CPI) basis, with a minimum daily ad spend. Waze also earns money from carpool service fees, brand referral fees, and the sale of Waze beacons for tunnel navigation.
  • Origin Story: The idea for Waze came from Ehud Shabtai’s frustration with traditional navigation systems that lacked traffic information. Waze’s unique approach involved users constructing the map in real-time as they drove, collecting GPS data from all active users.
  • Value Proposition: Waze offers community-driven navigation with real-time traffic data, helping users avoid congestion and find efficient routes. It also provides innovative advertising solutions, carpooling options, and beacon technology for uninterrupted navigation in tunnels.
  • Customer Segments: Waze serves individual drivers seeking navigation and traffic information, businesses and brands interested in advertising to a location-aware audience, carpoolers looking to save money, and government/transportation authorities utilizing Waze data for traffic management.
  • Distribution Strategy: Waze primarily distributes its services through its mobile app, available on various platforms. It also integrates with car manufacturers’ infotainment systems, offers APIs for integration, provides a web interface, and forms partnerships to extend its reach.
  • Marketing Strategy: Waze encourages user-generated content and community engagement, partners with broadcast stations, car manufacturers, and brands for promotion, uses in-app advertising, promotes carpooling, markets beacon technology to governments and authorities, and relies on word of mouth from satisfied users.
  • Revenue Generation: Waze’s revenue generation is diversified:
    • Advertising: Brands pay for advertising on the platform using various ad formats, with a CPI-based cost structure.
    • Waze Carpool: Users can earn money by carpooling with others, and Waze charges a service fee in some cases.
    • Brand Referral Fees: Waze partners with brands, earning referral fees when users purchase or subscribe to their products or services.
    • Waze Beacons: The company sells beacon hardware to improve navigation in tunnels.

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