Waze CEO Noam Bardin, who joined the company nearly 12 years ago and led it through its acquisition by Google to become a crowdsourced navigation app with millions of active users, is stepping down early next year.
Bardin had planned to announce his departure from Waze last spring, but changed his plans as the COVID-19 pandemic swept throughout the globe. The company is now launching a search for its next CEO. Bardin said he will stay on through January 2021 to help find the right person and aid with the transition.
"You know, after more than 11 years I think it's time to do something else," Bardin told TechCrunch in a phone interview Tuesday, adding he's not thought about what that next pursuit might be. "And it's also time to bring someone in who is better suited for the next stage of growth."
Bardin didn't found the company. That credit goes to Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine who started Waze in Israel in 2008. But he's been a part of and led the company through explosive growth and helped it become a community-based social network and navigation app that is used by millions of people globally.
When Bardin started at Waze, he said the company had maybe 14,000 users. Today, Waze has 140 million monthly active users who drive more than 24 billion miles (40 billion kilometers) every month. He has overseen the launch of a number of programs and features, including the company's Waze for Cities program, which share free, anonymized data with 1,600 cities globally as well as its ads offering and a carpool feature that helps connect riders and drivers. The carpool service is now available in four countries.
"I think one of the unique things about Waze's mission is that everyone's connected on this: nobody loves traffic," Bardin said. "Many companies, when they disrupt an industry it means there is a loser and a winner. But that's not the case with Waze."
Perhaps his most critical role was steering Waze through Google's acquisition of the company in 2013. Bardin noted that many expected Waze to fail under Google's ownership within a year. It flourished instead because Google allowed Waze to remain independent and build its open community of users in spite of becoming an intertwined product with Google Maps, he added.
"It's a testament to Google that they gave us that flexibility and independence," he said.
In a post on Waze's community forum, Bardin emphasized that the company has Google's continued support and will continue to be an independent brand and service.
"Our 2021 plans and our vision remains the same. We are also investing significantly in our infrastructure and tools so that, with your continued support, we can continue to expand our service and 'Outsmart traffic, Together.' And most importantly, you remain the very core and foundation of Waze -- you make Waze what it is, and there are no plans to change that," he wrote.
The next phase will be to continue that independence while growing it to 1 billion active users, Bardin said.
"We need someone with experience in managing a high-growth technology company in the consumer space, but it needs to be someone with experience in doing innovative approaches within a large company, which is a skill set that doesn't really exist that much."