20 December 2013

Despite the enormous use of public transit around the world and how widely complained-about it is, there hasn’t been much in the way of venture-backed attempts to cater to this market. Moovit is an exception, and with a $28 million Series B round led by Sequoia Capital now in the bank, it aims to do for users of buses and trains what Waze has done for drivers.

In case Moovit’s iOS and (recently redesigned) Android app has passed you by until now, it’s a combination of a journey planner and real-time travel updates service. From the main map you can tap on bus stops to see when the next departures are, and you can plan multi-modal trips for short hops or long distance journeys. As you travel, you can see other users on the map and receive information from them about how their journeys are progressing and the quality of their ride.

A complex problem to tackle

Although it’s easy to write this off as simply trying to take what Waze did and use it in a slightly different context, Moovit actually has some very different – and complex – problems to tackle. CEO Nir Erez tells us that the startup wants to solve the “uncertainty” that public transit users face. Where’s my bus right now? How do I find the right stop to board it? How do I pay when I get on? It’s enough to make you want to stick with a car.

One big challenge that Moovit faces is the sheer variety of different data sources it has to handle. In some areas, there are real-time feeds of bus and train locations available, whereas in others it has to work with fixed timetable information. What’s more, that data comes to Moovit in a variety of formats from 2,000 transport agencies around the world. Erez says that the company has developed an automated system to process and standardize this data; with only 30 employees at the firm, there’s no way it could be done manually.

For more information please visit the TNW blog