Intel Set to Acquire Israeli Startup Moovit for $1 Billion

Purchase of public transportation app seen as aiding U.S. company’s Mobileye unit in developing driverless taxis

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A local public transport information app operated by Moovit.
A local public transport information app operated by Moovit.Credit: Pau Barrena, Bloomberg

The U.S. company Intel is expected to acquire Israel’s Moovit, which has developed a popular mass transportation app, for some $1 billion after six months of negotiations, TheMarker has learned.

About 10% of the amount would go to Moovit’s approximately 210 employees, almost all of whom work in Israel, as an incentive for them to stay on for at least two years after the acquisition is completed.

Intel already holds a 7% stake in Moovit and is represented on the Moovit board by Hebrew University Prof. Amnon Shashua, whose auto-tech company Mobileye was bought by Intel in 2017 for $15.3 billion.

Moovit’s application provides real-time information on public transportation in more than 3,000 cities in 94 countries to users for free. The company generates revenues from a basket of products that includes giving local authorities and public transit operators tools to improve planning and operations and optimize services. It is estimated to have annual recurring revenues of $30 million.

Since the company was formed in 2011, it has raised $140 million in capital, its latest round in February 2018 valuing the firm at $550 million after the money. Its biggest shareholder is the U.S. venture capital fund Sequoia Capital, which controls 24%. Other investors include the Israeli VCs BRM Capital and Gemini Israel Ventures, which each hold 16%, and Yitzhak Mirilashvili’s Vaizra Investments, with 7%.

Moovit’s founders – CEO Erez Nir and Vice President for Operations Roy Bick – hold 9% and 6%, respectively. Yaron Evron, a third co-founder who left the company several years ago, still has a 2% stake. Over the years, the founders have cashed in shares worth several million dollars by selling stock as part of investment rounds. Those stakes do not take into account employee share options, which probably amount to 10% to 15%.

Moovit founders: CEO Erez Nir and Vice President for Operations Roy BickCredit: Moovit

There was no immediate response from Moovit or Intel. If it goes through, Moovit will be the second big acquisition in Israel by the U.S. company in five months, after it acquired Habana Labs last December for $2 billion.

The connection between Intel and Moovit isn’t obvious. The U.S. company is a giant maker of semiconductors and the Israeli startup a maker of a navigation app that is often called “the Waze of public transportation.” Moreover, Intel’s $300 million acquisition of Telmap, a mobile navigation software maker, was a failure: Intel closed it just two years after buying the company in 2011.

It is believed that Intel is interested in Moovit to help its Mobileye subsidiary. While Moovit is best known for its app to help users find bus and train times and routes in real time, Intel’s real interest is in the data services the company sells to businesses like Uber and Microsoft as well as to local authorities.

Moovit says its Mobility as a service, or MaaS, package of products contains the world’s biggest database on human traffic, collected from millions of users, including data on demand for public transportation by hour and location.

“We gather a billion anonymous data points every day and from them we build an exacting statistical picture of city traffic after different hours and different days of the week,” Erez told TheMarker in a 2018 interview.

That data combined with Moovit’s algorithms can help, for instance, a taxi driver find the optimal route for their passengers. The data could also be useful for Mobileye, which is developing self-driving-car technology and, in particular, a self-driving ride-hailing service it plans. Together with Germany’s Volkswagen and Israel’s Champion Motors, Mobileye said in 2018 it hoped to unveil the service in Tel Aviv by 2022.

The idea is to disburse hundreds of self-driving electric cars around the city that will pick up and drop off passengers. Mobileye is supplying the autonomous-car technology, Volkswagen the electric cars and Champion, an Israeli car importer, the logistics and infrastructure. Sources say Moovit’s role in the undertaking will be developing navigation and routing systems for the vehicles.

Since 2018, Mobileye and Moovit have been collaborating, with Moovit providing public transportation data that can be integrated into Mobileye navigation software. Moovit also collaborates with Waze, which is owned by Google, and Uber, both of which are competing in the Intel and Mobileye in the self-driving market. It’s not clear if that cooperation would continue if Moovit comes under Intel’s ownership.

As to Moovit’s popular app, sources say it will continue to be offered to the public, if for no other reason than that Mobileye will need the user data the app collects. In addition, in the future, its service will almost certainly be expanded to include buses and trains.

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