Inrix Lands $37M, Plans to Step on the Gas Expanding Global Traffic Data

[Updated at 2:10 pm] Traffic data provider Inrix, born out of the team that developed Microsoft’s SYNC in-car software system with Ford, plans an aggressive global expansion and a public-market debut “sooner rather than later” after landing a $37 million round of investment led by top Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

That’s the word today from Inrix CEO Bryan Mistele, who was understandably buoyant about the news of his seven-year-old company’s oversubscribed Series D round—the largest we’ve seen this year for a tech company in Washington state, topping the $30 million hauls notched by humor website operator Cheezburger Network and gamified social network startup Lockerz.

Kirkland, WA-based Inrix says it has been profitable for about two years and would have been just fine without the extra cash, saying its annual revenue growth rate over the past three years has been about 85 percent. So why take the money while claiming you don’t need it? Mistele says it allows Inrix to get big faster, and take advantage of some acquisition targets in a sector that increasingly prizes global reach.

“As you look at the market, our customers—folks like Ford and Toyota and companies like MapQuest and mobile application companies—they want traffic data everywhere,” Mistele says. Major competitors include Nokia’s Navteq in the US and Europe, and GPS company TomTom in Europe, Mistele says.

Inrix provides those companies and others with real-time traffic data culled from its “hundreds of public and private sources,” particularly its own network of more than 10 million GPS-connected vehicles and cellular phones. Inrix partners with commercial fleets such as taxis and delivery trucks to cull data, and also gets some information from government road-sensor networks.

The data is used by a long list of customers, including state transportation departments, automakers Audi, Ford, and Toyota, and consumer brands like MapQuest and Inrix’s own consumer smartphone apps. Overall, Inrix says its information is used by 150 companies and more than 100 million people worldwide, in more than 20 countries in Europe and North America.

Inrix’s Microsoft legacy doesn’t stop with Mistele and co-founder Craig Chapman, who is still a board member. The company also uses technology developed at Microsoft Research, although Mistele says the licensing deal is set to expire next year when Inrix hits the cap on royalties … Next Page »

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