Waze to let staff go as coronavirus lockdown hits advertising revenue

Around 30 members of staff from its marketing, sales and carpool divisions will lose their jobs.

WAZE, AN Israeli-developed navigation app, is just one example of the country’s innovation (photo credit: REUTERS)
WAZE, AN Israeli-developed navigation app, is just one example of the country’s innovation
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Waze is set to lay off 5% of its staff, amounting to around 30 of its 555 employees in part due to the coronavirus lockdown, which has depressed advertising revenue for the navigation app.
The company will also close several offices in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions as it refocuses its business on particular markets, employees were informed in an email from CEO Noam Bardin, according to The Verge.
Waze will “rethink priorities,” CEO Noam Bardin said in the email, “and we’ve 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.”
Of the 30 employees being let go, most will be from the company's sales, marketing and carpool partnerships teams, but the overall headcount within the company will remain unchanged as it plans to hire new staff to its technology and engineering teams in the coming months. Offices closing in countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Colombia, Chile and Argentina will be offset by focussing on growing markets in the US, France, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Mexico.
"These investments ensure the long-term success of Waze and that we exit this pandemic stronger than we entered it," Bardin told staff, adding: "Letting Wazers go is an extremely painful process for all of us. I want to make it clear that these reductions are being made due to the constraints created by the pandemic and to support investments in our focus areas, and not because of anyone’s actions or performance."
The lockdown put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus has meant far fewer road journeys globally, which in turn has meant fewer people using the navigation and mapping app, leading to a drop in advertising revenue.
In a blog post published by the company to Medium in April, the company laid out the extent of the drop-off. Waze's customers drove 60% fewer miles compared to the February daily average for a two-week period. In Italy, one of the first countries to be hit by the lockdown, 90% fewer miles were driven. As the pandemic continued, global weekly driven miles continued to depress down to a low of -70%.
On Passover night 2020, with most Israelis staying indoors due to the lockdown, usage of the navigation app dropped by between 92% to a whopping 99%. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. almost nobody was on the app in the country.
Waze Carpool, the company's car-share service launched two years ago, also took a hit as workers gave up their daily commute to work from home. In the early part of 2020 Waze was on track to achieve one million monthly carpool trips globally, but fell well short of that target as the year progressed, a spokesperson for the company has said, according to The Verge.  
"With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many cities and countries have enforced travel restrictions to curb the spread of the disease, so it’s no surprise that our users are driving less (or have stopped altogether), leading to a significant drop in kilometers driven (KMDs), Carpools, and Ad revenue," Bardin said.
An Israeli-start up, Waze was acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported $1.1 billion.