Telenav acquires Skobbler, a major player in OpenStreetMap-based GPS navigation

skobbler-logo-webrazziPopular location-based services company Telenav acquires Skobbler, a global, crowdsourced, open-source mapping and mobile game startup. Telenav will pay $19.2 million in cash and $4.6 million of company common stock, putting the total price of the deal slightly under $24 million.

Telenav plans to use Skobbler’s technology to improve its GPS navigation app, according to Ryan Peterson, a senior managing director of Telenav’s European operations.

Skobbler is a German startup that develops map-based apps and games that use data from OpenStreetMap (OSM) which was acquired by Seattle-based Telenav in 2013. OSM offers open-source, user-generated data about geography, including granular details about roads or routes, traffic, venues and major landmarks as well as events in an area. Its massive data resource enables the creation of a “free and editable” map of the world, says OSM founder Steve Coast.

OSM data is a strong alternative for the companies who don’t want to buy location data for use in their apps or websites from Google Inc. or other closed-system service providers. OSM’s most well-known user is Foursquare. Mr. Peterson also told Wall Street Journal that Telenav plans to keep Skobbler’s staff in Berlin and Romania, giving the U.S. company a broader presence in Europe.

“Crowd-sourced OSM can power personalized navigation services like Scout — with highly detailed maps on a global scale,” said HP Jin, Telenav’s chairman and CEO. “We plan to offer Scout with OSM for much of the world. We have already made significant headway toward this goal in the U.S., including using OSM for our HTML5 version of Scout.”

OSM is the only crowd-sourced and open-sourced map of the globe and, for many developers, it has become a clear alternative to Google Maps, reads Telenav’s official blog post on the issue. With offices in Germany and Romania, Skobbler was the first company to launch a commercial navigation app using OSM (in 2010) for both Android and iOS devices and is available in app stores in 49 regions with worldwide map coverage. In order to do this, Skobbler developed sophisticated algorithms that evolved OSM data from a display map to a navigable map.

“Waze and Google — or, just Google now — provide similar mechanisms to improve their maps, based mostly on OSM’s innovations. With one big catch. It is very much their map. Not yours,” said Coast in his blog commentary today regarding the acquisition. “OpenStreetMap is different. All of the quality data contributed is openly available — just like Wikipedia. So, anyone can download, experiment and play with it freely. It’s not locked up beyond your reach.”

Skobbler’s co-founder and financial chief, Marcus Thielking, said OSM data are more accurate and complete in certain European cities and rural areas versus any other available data.

Leave a Reply