There are few things more frustrating than rushing to the bus, only to find out that it’s delayed indefinitely. Or arriving at the subway stop to find hundreds of others waiting for the same delayed train, making your chances of entry onto the next car nearly impossible.
In cities with open data, localized transit apps with real-time transit updates can alleviate the problem, but those apps aren’t available everywhere–and in most cases, they don’t offer up information about service alerts, like bus stops relocated due to construction.
Moovit, an Israeli startup that recently raised $50 million for its app, which takes a lot of the headache out of navigating public transportation. Available in over 500 cities globally, Moovit uses a combination of official transit information and crowdsourced live updates to provide accurate information on a city’s public transportation city at any given moment.
Getting started with the app is fairly intuitive; just put in your starting location and destination and Moovit spits out the best way to get there. It also notifies you when you’re getting close to your stop–a bonus in cities with transportation systems that don’t always make that clear (ahem, San Francisco).
The service has grown quickly. In January 2013, Moovit completed a beta test with 200,000 users. Now, it’s up to 15 million users, and a new city is being added every day. The $50 million in funding will go towards expanding the app’s reach even further, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Not every location latches onto Moovit that quickly. In Holland, for example, potential users have been concerned about the privacy of the app. And sometimes, Moovit gets a big bump from circumstances outside of its control: In Colombia, the launch of an unfamiliar new light rail system spurred Moovit downloads.
“In smaller cities, when we get there, we have zero awareness. We always need to do guerrilla marketing, media, low-key online marketing,” says CEO Nir Erez. Like Waze, Moovit is all about word of mouth.
The vision for Moovit goes beyond public transportation (just look at the company’s investor list, which includes BMW i Ventures). “We want to make this an omni-search for non-car owners, including bike, taxi, and carsharing services,” says Erez. Later this year, Moovit plans to make a number of announcements around integrating multiple means of transportation into the app.
Moovit is still working out its monetization strategy. In Holland, it’s started a pilot selling bus and train tickets. Erez hints that integration of private carsharing and taxi operators could also help with future revenue, as could location-based marketing (like providing information about businesses at a user’s destination). For now, says Erez, “Our investors are interested in us establishing a position as a world leader” in the transportation space.