Waze app with icon showing police
In this weekly series, CNBC takes a look at companies that made the inaugural Disruptor 50 list, 10 years later.
Nobody enjoys sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams, getting an arrival time delayed due to street construction and gaining more road rage by the minute as a result. Waze, the crowdsourcing navigation app, is continuing to find ways to make frustrating road bumps a little more bearable.
Waze users – also known as “Wazers” – provide information on things like stopped cars, road work, gas prices and police activity during their commutes. The app then collects this real-time data and updates its maps accordingly, giving users the most up-to-date information on travel times and other potential traffic burdens. What was once a small Israeli startup now has more than 140 million monthly users worldwide.
In 2013 – shortly after the app made the inaugural CNBC Disruptor 50 list – Alphabet‘s Google acquired Waze, reportedly for more than $1 billion. The addition of Waze to the Google portfolio was expected to help Google improve features on its own navigation app, Google Maps. Google Maps is still the most popular navigation app today and relies more heavily on historical data to map out the best path to one’s destination. On the other hand, Waze’s unique crowdsourcing technique allows it to determine the fastest route with the most recent information, and it’s only available for car and motorbike use.
The app’s innovation has had led to backlash in the past, for potentially distracting drivers, who must use their phones behind the wheel to make reports on Waze. In 2018, it faced threats of legal action by Los Angeles lawmakers for suggesting shortcuts that ended up causing more congestion on side roads not prepared to handle high amounts of traffic. Uri Levine, co-founder and former Waze president, said at the time that he disagreed with the complaints.
“All roads are the public domain and therefore the right of everyone to use,” Levine said. “In that sense, Waze redistributes traffic to create a better traffic situation for everyone.”
The company also struggled at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. With a decrease in individuals traveling, Waze reported in April 2020 that its users across the globe were driving 60% fewer miles compared to two months prior, with driving in Italy – one of the first countries to see the impacts of Covid-19 – dropping more than 90%. As a result, Waze laid off 5% of its global workforce in September 2020 and permanently closed offices in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions.
The company also shutdown Waze Carpool in September, a service connecting Wazers with similar commutes to carpool. The six-year-old service was intended to help Wazers cut down on gas costs while creating less traffic congestion during busiest travel times each day, but the pandemic caused too many changes in work driving patterns to be a priority, with errand trips and travel now the dominant uses for Waze.
Despite these challenges, innovations within the app have kept Waze users consistently coming back to the platform. It’s one of the top navigation choices among Uber and Lyft drivers. Drivers using Waze can be entertained as they’re directed to their desired location through voices from celebrities like DJ Khaled, Arnold Schwarzenegger and T-Pain. Partnerships with popular music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio allow Waze users to stream music directly through the Waze app as they navigate to their destination.
Waze also flaunts its ability to do more for the greater good. The app was used by FEMA during Hurricane Sandy to provide information on available fuel locations in the midst of gas shortages; it helped provide accurate information on Covid-19 testing centers at the beginning of the pandemic.
Local governments are also able to partner with Waze through a program called Waze for Cities, which establishes two-way data sharing through the app and government partners that helps communities with city planning and Waze with more accurate traffic monitoring.
New top officials have joined the company relatively recently, with Neha Parikh taking on the role of CEO in June 2021 and CMO Harris Beber joining in April 2022. Beber previously served as CEO at Vimeo, while Parikh was the president of Expedia-owned Hotwire and currently sits on the board of Carvana.
“Why should anybody feel emotional about a navigation app? Yet people do, including me,” Parikh said at the Skift Global Forum in October. “It’s not just a one-way app that uses technology. It is a two-way ecosystem where people actually contribute to help each other.”
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Sam Bankman-Fried tried to influence witness through Signal, DOJ alleges
Former FTX chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried (C) arrives to enter a plea before US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Manhattan federal court, New York, January 3, 2023.
Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images
Federal prosecutors are attempting to bar indicted FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried from using encrypted messaging software, citing efforts that may “constitute witness tampering,” according to a letter filed in Manhattan federal court Friday.
Bankman-Fried reached out to the “current General Counsel of FTX US who may be a witness at trial,” prosecutors said. Ryne Miller, who was not identified by name in the government filing, is the current counsel for FTX US, and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis.
The government claims that Bankman-Fried wrote to Miller via Signal, an encrypted messaging app, on Jan. 15, days after bankruptcy officials at crypto exchange disclosed the recovery of more than $5 billion in FTX assets.
“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” Bankman-Fried allegedly told Miller.
Bankman-Fried has also been in contact with “other current and former FTX employees,” the filing said. Federal prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried’s request suggests an effort to influence the witness’s testimony, and that Bankman-Fried’s effort to improve his relationship with Miller “may itself constitute witness tampering.”
Both Miller and a representative for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
In restricting Bankman-Fried’s access to Signal and other encrypted messaging platforms, the government cites a need to “prevent obstruction of justice.” Federal prosecutors claim that Bankman-Fried directed Alameda and FTX through Slack and Signal, and ordered his employees set communications to “autodelete after 30 days or less.”
Citing previously undisclosed testimony from ex-Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, the government claimed that Bankman-Fried indicated “many legal cases turn on documentation and it is more difficult to build a legal case if information is not written down or preserved.” Ellison pled guilty to multiple charges of fraud and has been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s efforts to build a case against Bankman-Fried.
Bankman-Fried pled not guilty to eight charges in connection with the collapse of his multibillion-dollar crypto empire, FTX. He is due in federal court in October, after being released on $250 million bond.
Amazon to start charging delivery fees on Fresh grocery orders under $150
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Amazon will start charging delivery fees for Fresh grocery orders that are less than $150, in a move it said will help keep prices low on its services.
Beginning Feb. 28, Prime members who want home delivery from Amazon Fresh will incur a $9.95 delivery fee for orders under $50, while orders between $50 and $100 will include a $6.95 delivery fee, and orders between $100 and $150 will carry a $3.95 delivery fee, the company said in a note to customers viewed by CNBC. Only Prime members can use the delivery service, although anybody can shop at an Amazon Fresh grocery store.
Amazon previously guaranteed members of its $139-a-year Prime service free delivery on Fresh orders over $35.
“This service fee will help keep prices low in our online and physical grocery stores as we better cover grocery delivery costs and continue to enable offering a consistent, fast, and high-quality delivery experience,” the notice stated.
The move comes as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has embarked on a wide-ranging review of the company’s expenses amid slowing sales and a worsening economic outlook. Amazon has eyed laying off 18,000 employees, frozen hiring in its corporate workforce, and paused or canceled some projects such as a sidewalk robot and a telehealth service.
Amazon has previously recalibrated its approach to online grocery deliveries, a business that is notoriously challenging from a cost and efficiency perspective. In 2021, Amazon added a $10 service fee for Whole Foods delivery orders to Prime members, after previously offering them for no extra charge.
Tesla just had its best week since May 2013
Tesla CEO Elon Musk smiles as he addresses guests at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) meeting in Stavanger, Norway on August 29, 2022.
Carina Johansen | AFP | Getty Images
Tesla shares surged 33% this week, marking their best weekly performance since May 2013 and second best on record.
The stock rose 11% on Friday to close at $177.88. The rebound followed a six-month period in which Tesla shares had declined more than 40%. The stock’s 65% plunge in 2022 was its worst in Tesla’s 12-plus years as a public company.
Tesla’s rally this week was aided by an upbeat fourth-quarter earnings report. During the call with shareholders and analysts, CEO Elon Musk said the company was on target to potentially produce 2 million vehicles in 2023, and he suggested demand would support sales of those cars as well.
Official guidance called for production of 1.8 million vehicles this year. The company has not revised its longstanding target for 50% compound annual growth rate over a multi-year horizon.
Tesla’s five day performance charted against Rivian and Ford Motor Company.
Tesla beat on both the top and the bottom lines, recording total revenue of $24.32 billion, including $324 million of deferred revenue related to Tesla’s driver assistance systems. The company cut prices for its cars dramatically in December and January, leading to concern about demand and a buildup of inventory.
Analyst reaction to Tesla’s numbers was mixed.
“For bulls, the growth story is alive and well,” Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi, who has an underperform rating on the stock, wrote in a note on Thursday. “For bears, the numbers don’t lie.”
In early January, Tesla reported fourth-quarter vehicle deliveries and production that fell shy of expectations.
Tesla’s stock jump came amid a broader market rally. The S&P 500 was up 2.2% for the week and the Nasdaq gained 4.3%.
Rival electric car manufacturer Lucid spiked on Friday as well, rising 43% on reports of rumors that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, intended to take the company private.
Some of Tesla’s underperformance last year was attributed to Musk’s shift of focus to Twitter, which he acquired for $44 billion in October. Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter has experienced mass layoffs and fleeing advertisers, gutting morale.
Tesla remains the second most-shorted stock in U.S. markets, behind only Apple, meaning that a large numbers of investors are betting on a decline. Over 94 million of the automaker’s shares are shorted, according to data from S3 Partners.
Despite the rally, active short selling continues, S3 managing director Ihor Dusaniwsky told CNBC. Short sellers view Tesla’s appreciation as having created “an overheated and overbought stock that is due for at least a short-term reversal,” he said. In the last week, S3 Partners said it’s seen a 3.9% increase in total shares shorted, while investors shorting the stock lost $4.3 billion over that stretch.
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