Building a competitor for Google maps: Skobbler gets acquired for $24 million

Last year, at How to Web, we had a great speaker on stage, the charismatic and super knowledgeable Philipp Kandal, co-founder and CTO of Skobbler. Of course, we didn’t pass on the chance to interview him for our blog, this past October. But little did we know that bigger, more important news was just around the corner for the German startup.

Just a couple of days ago, Skobbler announced that it was acquired by Telenav for almost $24 million, which is great news for the CEE startup! The two teams working together – Skobbler is headquartered in Berlin, Germany and its R&D facilities are located in Cluj-Napoca, Romania – have added to Telenav’s huge database, thus reinforcing its positioning as a real competitor for Google maps.

We wanted to find out more about the acquisition and what it means for Skobbler, its team, both the German and the Romanian one, and what its implications are for the great product they’re offering as well (I’m using it myself this weekend while traveling to Sofia). And we found out quite a bit, courtesy of Philipp Kandal. Read all about it!

1. Tell us a little bit about the main milestones that marked Skobbler’s growth.

The most important milestone in our company history was definitely the launch of our app on the Apple Appstore. Within one week we got to the #1 selling app in Germany and went from zero to tens of thousands in revenue.
From that point we really knew that we are onto something special and it was clear to us that we’ll find a way to get that. Later than that was then the launch of our first app with on-board maps (which means people can use them without having a data connection).
Later on when we signed on Mercedes as a customer that was a big validation that we are going into the automotive industry.

2. What motivated the decision to sell Skobbler?

The main reason we really shared the vision with Telenav to create a true Google Maps competitor, so we feel that together we have more resources to fulfill this vision.
Of course a really nice offer and good upsides with that also helped a lot to make the decision easier for us as founders.

telenav acquires skobbler

3. What do you think was the main competitive advantage of Skobbler to be considered for an acquisition?

I think the most important thing we have as a company is our amazing team in Cluj and Berlin. Based on that we have been able to build a great product and technology.
At the end the main value drivers of a company always are: user-base, product, technology and team.

4. Have you been offered an opportunity for an exit before?
Yes we had various other conversations in that area, but obviously I can not comment further on that 😉

5. How will the product be integrated in TeleNav’s platform?
We plan on sharing more specifics about that with the public ~May time-frame. But it is very clear that the products which we build will definitely continue to live on, potentially just with a different brand.

6. Will you maintain the offices in Cluj Napoca?
Yes, we will keep our offices, and definitely plan on extending them over time, so this is really about growth. I am also fully committed to stay there and improve my Romanian skills. I love it here and I think it’s a country full of wonderful opportunities in our industry.

7. What do you think is the best chance for a startup to compete with industry leaders?
In my opinion the best way to compete with the giants is to find areas that you have an idea on how to provide a significantly better product than they can, if you try to beat them in all areas you’ll waste a lot of resources. So pick your battles very carefully.

For us the biggest area we were much better than anybody else was the ability to have on-board maps which people can use also in other countries when traveling, and that is not possible with Google or Apple maps.

Thank you, Philipp, for sharing all this valuable information with us. We’re sure that success stories such as Skobbler’s are great drivers for investment and support in CEE R&D teams and tech startups. Best of luck for all future plans!

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