In Conversation with the Newsmaker
An encouraging conversation with the newsmaker explaining the journey of past, present and beyond
Moovit is the world’s leading public transit data and analytics company, which has witnessed a fascinating journey from inception in 2013 to having 170 million users in just over five years. Moovit is surely an example of how an out-of-the-box idea, if executed correctly, can contribute its share in making the world a better place. Beyond Exclamation recently had the pleasure to be “In Conversation” with Steve Swasey, VP Head of Global Communications at Moovit, in which, he took us on the journey of Moovit and beyond.
What seeded the vision to develop such an app, especially the idea of crowdsourcing? Can you give us a little background on it and where it stands today? Brief us about the marvelous journey of Moovit.
Steve: Well, I can go from the very beginning. Roy Bick is one of the co-founders of Moovit. He was living in his hometown of Tel Aviv Israel when he realized there was no accurate information for public transit available on our smartphone or on the Internet. And he literally mapped all of the public transit stops in Tel Aviv. He then developed a software program to put that on an application. Together with Nir Erez, who is the CEO and co-founder, and Yaron Evron, the third co-founder, they they got investors and created the company to build an app for transit riders around the world. The company started in Israel in 2012 and grew very quickly to include other cities. The first city that Moovit was launched in 2013 after Tel Aviv was Madrid, Spain. Today, Moovit is available in more than 2,200 cities around the world in 80 countries and in 44 languages. Moovit has more than 170 million registered users, and it is by far the largest and most downloaded transit app in the world. Moovit has more than five million bus lines mapped on its app.
Since Roy was able to map his city, he convinced Nir that they should try to recruit local editors in communities to map their cities. At first, Nir didn’t think it would work, doubting people would spend their time doing that. But when we opened invitations to people in local communities to map their cities, people responded very well. More than 1 million people have shown interest and have gone through an online screening process. From this, Moovit has more than 350,000 local editors around the world. We call them “Mooviters.” They are helping put their local transit lines in their cities on the map. And these are in many areas that would not have any transit app coverage at all. So, these local editors are local heroes. They’re super local patriots and their input gives Moovit hyper local accuracy that no other app or other mapping service has.
It’s quite fascinating, and looking at the numbers, we would like to congratulate the whole team of Moovit it on its way to success. So, the next question is how was the founders’ life before and after Moovit? What change did the company bring in the founders’ personal and professional life?
Steve: Moovit was Nir’s third startup and he was not looking for another startup. He was happy as an investor, and he wasn’t too interested in joining another company if it was not a big idea that would grow. It had to be scalable. In Moovit, he could see very clearly that there was a huge addressable global market. Nir saw this as a big growth opportunity. Roy was previously in the military so this was his first job. Between the two of them, Nir was a very experienced entrepreneur who previously founded and grew two companies. And Roy was the young entrepreneur who had the great idea and the great energy. Between them, with Yaron, they brought together the technology, investors, and the management, and created Moovit.
It sure is like they say the complementary skill sets of the founders bring success. We would you like to know what auxiliary services does Moovit provide, like there’s trip planning, bike sharing, and what else?
Steve: We give users all of the options for what we call intermodal transit. In a major city, there are many different transit lines. There’s not one just one bus line; there’s a bus line, subways, ferries and commuter lines. So, we give all of their data, their timelines and arrival information in one single app. This includes bike-share and ride share in many cities.
So, how does Moovit handle this data? Are there data issues involved?Then there’s a lot of data coming in —how does the app handle the reports?
Steve: We gather the data for the app in three ways. One is we use open source data. There is open data in the U.S. and other parts of the world, where transit operators publish their data in the open environment. When there’s open data, we gather that. When there is no other data, we partner with the transit agencies for them to share their data, so we can put it on our app. And the third way is we have our users providing their commute information by using the app. We know how many people are riding the train at what time in the morning or in the evening. And the beauty of this is all of the user data Moovit collects is anonymous. We do not know if you’re male or female. We do not know where you live. We do not know how much money you make. We do not know your phone number. All we know is you’re using the Moovit app to get from point A to point B. And, there are no privacy issues or any concerns with any personal identifiable information. If your GPS is on, Moovit is tracking your movements but no personal identifiable information. This gives Moovit the world’s largest repository of transit data. No other company has more transit data than Moovit, because we track the users’ movement. And we have these 350,000 local editors giving us real time information and real time updates in the app. We have crowdsourced information from our super users as well as the everyday users who are just giving us data by using the app.
Absolutely Steve, the numbers say it all. Also, we would like to know about the moment when the team realized that the hard work has been finally paid off? We are sure there must be numerous stories like that.
Steve: The first million users. When we started, it was a small app that was piloted in Israel and then went to Spain. We generated 1 million users very quickly. That became 10 million users. When I joined the company in November of 2016, we all celebrated 50 million users. Then, twelve months later, we celebrated 100 million users. And today in June of 2018, we have more than 170 million users. So, each one of those incremental gains of users is a validation that Moovit is a world class company, which is doing good for people. Another great milestone is when cities recognized the power of Moovit, to partner with them. A very good example is the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil that made Moovit the official Transit App for the 2016 Olympic Games. We were able to go in and prove that we can give the city of Rio better information about transit for the massive influx of athletes, fans, visitors, media and officials coming to the Olympics. And so Moovit became the official transit app for the city of Rio during the Olympic Games. We have since been the official transit app for more than 100 venues, activities, games and matches like the top football club in Rome, AS Roma and numerous others. So, each time we generate another world-class partnership, we know that we have something unique or something very special. The third validation is the quality of investors who have participated in Moovit fundraising. Sequoia is one of the preeminent venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. Sequoia led Moovit’s Series B and they’ve participated in each one of the subsequent rounds. Intel Capital led Moovit’s $50 million series D earlier this year in February. Also, Intel Capital provided a strategic opportunity by enabling Moovit to partner with Intel’s Mobileye, which Intel Corp. had acquired a year earlier. Mobileye is another major transit company based in Israel that has cameras mounted on vehicles to give transit they give traffic information. So if you look at it from the user growth, or from the partnership growth, or from the financial investor’s point of view, Moovit has had positive proof points all along the way.
Final question, with the introduction of new technologies like AI breakthroughs and disruptions in the industry, how does Moovit plan its upcoming years?
Steve: The beauty of technology is that it advances and gets bigger, stronger, and faster every day. Moovit’s opportunity is to continue to improve its application and improve the quality of data that it generates and then turn that data back to the communities it serves. That’s what Moovit is doing now. Moovit is licensing the data to municipalities, cities and transit organizations for them to improve their systems and that’s how Moovit makes money. The app is free without any subscription or downloading fee and without any advertising in the app. We provide a terrific benefit to consumers with the most comprehensive transit data in the app and that’s free to consumers. What we provide to municipalities, transit agencies and others for a fee is the data and the analysis of the data. And, so we have very smart people who are taking this treasure trove of data and converting it to analytics systems and processes that municipalities, cities and transit agencies can use to improve their systems. Again for the benefit of the community. So any way you look at it, Moovit is providing a great benefit to cities and people in cities who depend on cities transit.