Israeli startup Moovit is taking the world by storm. To date the public transit app has had $80 million in funding, and now has celebrity backer Ashton Kutcher handing over his cash.
Moovit’s success, its founder Nir Erez says, is down to the community that has bolstered its growth over the past few years.
“We have over 50 percent more data than Google Maps today...We don’t have money like Google or the amount of people around the world like other companies - but we have the crowd around us helping build this data.”
The app, which is present in 750 cities and translates to 40 different languages, allows public transit bodies (such as London's TfL) as well as civilians to push real-time transport updates.
It’s already assisted in streamlining landmark events, including the Pope’s canonisation in Rome just over two years ago.
Initially, Italian officials were shy about handing over public transit data when the Tel Aviv startup first came to them.
But once the app gained a couple of hundred thousand downloads in the city, officials took notice- quickly realising the app could communicate traffic and transport updates.
When over 5 million international visitors came to watch the historic Catholic ceremony, sending Rome’s transport networks into a frenzy, Moovit helped locals carry on with their day-to-day lives.
Similarly, Moovit helped authorities in Brazil alert locals of disruptions and road blocks when the football championships were on.
Not only does Moovit send delay alerts, it lets city-dwellers report their travel experience, like bus congestion levels and cleanliness.
The more people use Moovit, the more real-time information concerning buses and trains is distributed.
Live information received from travelers offers all users improved route plans and more accurate estimates about arrival times - helping make cities smarter.
“We know where people are and where they will be in twenty minutes time judging by their searches,” Erez says. “Think what cities could do with that information.”
The app currently collects 100 million pieces of data from its app users a day, and has around 30 million users. Erez says that lately, Moovit’s gained around two million users per month.
How to beat Google
Google transit has been around for nine years, and Moovit three. But the Israeli startup launches a new city every 24-hours.
Plus, Moovit doesn’t rely on official data.
“If official data is not available (famous gtfs files) we can launch literally anywhere in the world with our community of users. We currently have more than 20k editors helping us in 100 countries,” says chief operating officer Alex Mackenzie Torres, a former Google employee.
“We’re going to cover most of the world in the next 2-3 years,” Erez says.
Ashton Kutcher, an unlikely name in the public transit app world, certainly believes Moovit has potential to take over Google too. His venture firm, Sound Ventures, (which is also backed by Guy Oseary: Madonna and U2’s talent manager) today pledged cash for the startup to help it move into promising markets like India and China.
Erez didn’t disclose how much Sound Ventures have coughed up, but to put it into perspective, it follows the startups recent Series C, during which they raised $50 million dollars from Nokia Growth Partners, BMW i Ventures, Keolis, Bernard Arnault Group and Vaizra Investments in January 2015. Earlier investors include BRM Group, Gemini Partners and Sequoia Capital.
Using crowd-sourcing, or a community to bolster your startup is a great way to gain momentum. Mackenzie Torres advises: “First know your user and know your needs. Engaging with communities require that previous work so that you can bring added value and engage properly with those highly motivated and engaged users.”