Google is the latest suitor to be reportedly circling around social sat-nav smartphone app Waze. Bloomberg reports ‘people familiar with the matter’ who say Mountain View is considering an acquisition, and that Waze is “fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties and is seeking more than $1 billion”. However sources contacted by TechCrunch have poured cold water on the Google rumour.
We’ve reached out to Google and Waze but at the time of writing neither company could be reached for comment. Update: A spokeswoman for Waze said: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”
Earlier this month we covered reports that Facebook was sniffing around the mapping and traffic service, with a view to ramping up its mobile efforts. Meanwhile Apple has also previously been linked with a Waze buy – having had its own highly public problems with maps. Google has also previously been rumoured to be interested, as has Microsoft. So that’s the full complement of tech giants all apparently eyeing up the same crowdsourced traffic startup.
Waze was founded in 2007 and has raised some $67 million in VC funding from backers including Kleiner Perkins, BlueRun Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and Li Ka-shing, according to Crunchbase. In February it announced it had grown to 40 million registered users, some of whom it picked up during Apple’s mapgate troubles. Waze has offices in the U.S. and Israel — the latter being where its R&D is based.
A key blocker for any Waze acquisition has been apparent investor conflict over the terms of any deal, with questions about whether Waze would move fully to the U.S. or keep R&D in Israel causing disagreements. There has also been investor conflict about whether to accept a lower, mostly cash offer or a higher offer comprised of more shares, according to our sources. Rumours of big tech suitors like Google sniffing around could also be a way for Waze investors to try to leverage more out of an acquisition — by making other suitors, such as Facebook (whose up to $1 billion interest in Waze we have previously confirmed), up their own offers.
Bloomberg’s sources claim Google and “other large tech companies” — but not Apple — have approached Waze about a possible acquisition since its talks with Facebook become public. However they also say none of the bidders is close to clinching a deal, and add that the talks may fall apart or Waze may walk away and seek more VC funding to continue expanding its mapping program. So really that’s saying everything is still to play for and any outcome is possible at this point.
To our ear, the most plausible-sounding scenario here is that investors are trying to leverage more out of a possible Facebook acquisition of Waze. Especially because multiple credible sources contacted by TechCrunch have told us that the Google acquisition rumour is not at all true.
OtterBox, which makes the top-selling protective case for smartphones, has announced the acquisition of LifeProof for an undisclosed amount.
News of the acquisition comes one day after a lawsuit filed by OtterBox against LifeProof for patent infringement was dismissed. OtterBox told the North Carolina Business Report that the acquisition was not related to the lawsuit or any settlement. Headquartered in San Diego, LifeProof also makes protective cases and accessories for smartphones and tablets.
Over the next 30 days, OttberBox will beginning incorporating the LifeProof brand into OtterBox’s product lineup. More information about product availability and alignment will be available after that period. OtterBox currently has about 650 employees worldwide, while LifeProof, which was founded in 2009, employs about 250 people, who the companies say will remain in their San Diego location “for the foreseeable future.”
“Our strategy is to utilize our combined brand momentum, and world-class talent to create a great customer experience that generates OtterBox brand ambassadors for life,” Thomas said in the acquisition announcement.
In addition to its extremely durable smartphone cases, which are designed to withstand drops, water immersion and debris, OtterBox also makes protective coverings for other mobile devices such as tablets, as well as screen protectors and accessories. LifeProof’s cases are designed for people with very active lifestyles (or who are especially accident prone around mountains, concrete and bodies of water). Both companies’ cases performed well when they were subjected to abuse in the name of consumer research by TechCrunch during CES in January.
Fresh from closing its purchase of newsreading app Pulse, LinkedIn has made another acquisition to dive deeper into the mobile space. TechCrunch has found out, and confirmed, that the social network has aqui-hired Maybe, the social polling startup founded by Omar Hamoui — the man who set up, ran and then sold mobile ad company AdMob to Google for $750 million.
All staff from Maybe, except for Hamoui himself, are now at LinkedIn and working in its mobile division. That includes four engineers and one designer, LinkedIn has told us. Meanwhile, Maybe itself has now shut down. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
Maybe first emerged in June of last year, a startup that was incubated and spun out of Hamoui’s now-defunct startup generator Churn Labs.
Maybe was one of the contenders in the area of polling startups — an area that has seen some other M&A activity, specifically with the acquisition of GoPollGo by Yahoo. Others include Seesaw, Fashism and Thumb.
It’s not clear why Maybe closed up shop so fast. Maybe because the polling space is so crowded? Maybe because Hamoui is working on something else? Maybe because LinkedIn made Maybe an offer it couldn’t refuse? LinkedIn is not commenting further, and we have not yet heard back from Hamoui himself. Maybe we will update when we do.
Update: Hamoui has now responded to confirm the acqui-hire as well, and explain a little more of what went on:
“After a number of different product directions we didn’t feel that what we were building was having the impact we wanted,” he says.
Putting aside competitive pressures in the polling space and startups in general looking for just the right product for the market, there is a connection between LinkedIn and Admob: Kevin Scott, SVP of Engineering at the social network, was previously VP of Engineering at AdMob. TechCrunch understands that after Hamoui and his two co-founders, Haider Sabri and Wayne Pan, met with him, they all decided it would be a natural next step for the mobile-focused team that they had built up.
“Although we had plenty of cash of in the bank, we were really impressed with the team and vision at LinkedIn,” says Hamoui. “Having the excellent mobile focused team we had built join them was clearly a way to have the kind of impact we were hoping for.”
Hamoui says the his own next steps “aren’t locked down yet.” We’ll definitely keep you posted with what we find out.
The Startup Battlefield competition at our Disrupt events is like a mini startup school. The dozens of chosen startups that go through the Battlefield training process end up with solid presentation skills, hard-earned pitching prowess and newfound courage.
And also, lots of public visibility, which is great for getting users, hiring top employees and luring clients and investors.
The Battlefield has gone so well that our current staff has been getting overwhelmed by the record number of applications. We need help, so we’re creating a new position called the Battlefield Editor.
We’re looking for a bright, talented person to help manage the entire process, from bringing in applicants to picking the 30 finalists and getting them ready for the Disrupt stages in San Francisco, New York and, this year’s addition, Berlin. In this position, you’ll also get to give out a huge trophy and a big cardboard check for $50,000 to one lucky startup, as they debut to the media and the investor world. Battlefield winners and finalists have included huge success stories like Mint and Yammer among others.
Are you already in the Startup Whisperer role at a popular accelerator and think you can take your show on the road? Read TC every day, just finished your MBA and want a more meaningful job than McKinsey? Can you find the Next Big Thing? Send your resume and a letter explaining your interest here.
TechCrunch is looking for someone to oversee the Startup Battlefield process in all its phases — including applicant recruitment, applicant review and final selection (working under the direction of TC’s co-editors), finalist training and rehearsals, and finally stage management at Disrupt. The role’s title is Battlefield Editor. In addition to those responsibilities, the role will focus on expanding our network of angels, incubators, VCs and accelerators to recruit a stronger pool of Battlefield applicants, strengthening our rehearsal program, and developing the Battlefield franchise, both online and offline, for applicants and alums.
The role requires a strong writer who can post on TechCrunch about Battlefield matters, as well as manage many threads of communication with the many parties who make up the Battlefield. The core of the job is a strong ability to work with relatively green, unlaunched startups and prepare them to present brilliantly on the TC Disrupt stage before a group of highly distinguished judges. That preparation process takes enormous focus and commitment. Beyond that core requirement, the role will also work to help expand the Battlefield franchise in a variety of ways, including improved ties with Battlefield alums.
Candidates should have deep experience in the Silicon Valley startup world and direct experience working with startups and investors to help shape new ideas and prepare them to pitch investors. They should possess very strong personal and written communication skills, outstanding organizational skills, a high capacity for detail work, and a very patient and winning attitude.
A brain drain at a big tech company is never a good thing, and when a lot of that departing talent consists of high-level execs moving on in rapid succession it’s bound to look like curtains to outside observers. That appears to be the case at HTC, which is losing a lot of senior execs according to multiple reports today from The Verge, CNET and Engadget, and a source has pointed us to yet another recent high profile departure.
We’ve learned at TechCrunch that HTC Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Greg Fisher departed the company just a few short months ago to Amazon. Fisher is among a growing list of known execs leaving HTC, including people on both the product and marketing sides of the equation. What we’re hearing suggests that the company is facing a lot of internal turmoil and politics, which is frustrating employees across the board.
The Verge reported earlier today that HTC’s Chief Product Office Kouji Kodera has departed as of last week, which is a considerable staff shift given that Kodera probably spearheaded HTC’s recent line of critically well-received devices, including the HTC One X and this year’s HTC One. The company has also seen the departure of Global Communications VP Jason Gordon, Global Retail Marketing Manager Rebecca Rowland, digital marketing chief John Starkweather and Eric Lin, manager of product strategy with the past three months.
And when it rains it pours, as HTC Asia CEO Lennard Hoornik confirmed to have left today, and Elizabeth Griffin, the Head of Global Digital Service for the Taiwan-based smartphone maker also reportedly hopping into the lifeboat in favor of a position at Nintendo (out of the frying pan and into the fire?).
This sizeable outpouring of talent comes at a crucial juncture for HTC, as it has just launched the HTC One, a flagship that CEO Peter Chou has literally staked his job upon. Chou so far seems to be secure in his position at the company, but if this trend of executive departures, he could soon wind up on his own at the top. Chou is apparently not the man people would like to have in charge, however, as The Verge reports that he and his tendency to make snap decisions are what’s behind this outbound tide of senior staff.
The HTC One is reportedly selling at a decent pace after a slow start, but HTC’s other sizeable bet, the First which comes pre-loaded with Facebook Home, looks to be on life support at best, if not entirely discontinued already.
If HTC is bleeding from the head, it’s possible it’s bleeding from the body, too. We’ve seen evidence to suggest that could be the case in the past, and we’ve also heard that it’s not just senior people who are looking towards greener pastures. It’s unlikely that we’ve seen the end of these leavings, either, so in the meantime we’ll be watching to see who’s next into the lifeboats.