Waze closes Singapore and Asia-Pacific sales offices, lays off 5% of global workforce

The app uses user-supplied data to help people find alternate routes to avoid traffic jams or speed cameras. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM WAZE/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - Navigation app Waze is closing its sales office in Singapore and laying off about 5 per cent of its global workforce, as the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in fewer vehicles on roads in many countries.

In a note to staff, chief executive officer Noam Bardin said Waze users in many cities and countries are driving less or have stopped driving entirely because of the ongoing pandemic.

This has led to a significant fall in kilometres driven, carpools and advertising revenue, he said in the note, which was published on American technology news website The Verge.

"This has forced us to rethink priorities and we have decided to focus our resources on product improvements for our users, accelerate our investments in technical infrastructure, and refocus our sales and marketing efforts on a small number of high-value countries," said Mr Bardin.

The app, which uses user-supplied data to help people find alternate routes to avoid traffic jams or speed cameras, is laying off 30 people, or about 5 per cent of its 555-strong global workforce.

Mr Bardin did not say how many people in Singapore are affected by the layoffs. Google, which owns the navigation company, confirmed the contents of Mr Bardin's note but declined to give more details when The Straits Times contacted it for comment.

Google acquired the Israeli start-up for reportedly more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in 2013.

According to Mr Bardin's memo, affected employees will receive a severance package that includes career transition opportunities within Google, outplacement services from the date of the notice through six months after employment, financial help and eligibility for year-end bonuses, and healthcare benefits.

His note said that Waze's advertising sales team will "pare back and focus on the key markets that drive 93 per cent of revenue and carry 95 per cent of kilometres driven we sell in".

This means the company will close its sales offices in the Asia-Pacific - in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia - as well as in its smaller Latin America markets of Colombia, Argentina and Chile.

He added that Waze will continue servicing these countries through increased investments in Waze Local Starter - a self-service advertising solution that businesses can use to promote their physical stores via a pin on the Waze map. This effort will be supported by the company's small and medium-sized business teams in its main sales hubs.

As more people work from home and do not have to commute to their offices, Waze is also shrinking its carpool partnerships team.

"Our narrowed product focus also means we will reduce our product partnerships and private- and public-sector teams," said Mr Bardin.

Waze Carpool allows drivers to get paid to offer rides to people travelling on a similar route, although it is not available in Singapore.

Waze's focus on fewer markets and adjustments in its partnership investments also mean it is reducing the size of its marketing team.

Also impacted is the performance marketing team, which helps advertising companies target app users while in their cars.

"We are making investments in product to support our growth efforts and are restructuring the performance marketing team to re-align around these efforts," Mr Bardin said.

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