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Originally published July 24, 2011 at 9:48 PM | Page modified July 25, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Inrix aims to drive its traffic data into a billion-dollar business

The next local startup to get really big could be Inrix, the Kirkland traffic-data company that spun out of Microsoft's advanced research group in 2005.

Seattle Times senior technology reporter

quotes wow that's a big round, bigger than the region has seen in a very long time. cheers to... Read more
quotes Good. now they can pay their vendors. Read more

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The next local startup to get really big could be Inrix, the Kirkland traffic-data company that spun out of Microsoft's advanced research group in 2005.

Inrix is announcing Monday a huge $37 million round of venture financing.

It plans to use the money to expand internationally, bulk up with acquisitions and position itself for a public offering.

Inrix should end up with a valuation of perhaps $2 billion and generate close to $1 billion in annual sales within five years, according to Chief Executive Bryan Mistele.

The company has rejected multiple buyout offers because it believes it's positioned to lead the enormous global market for traffic data.

"We have absolutely no desire to be acquired," Mistele said. "We are committed to build a billion-dollar business."

Inrix isn't disclosing sales, but Mistele said it's been profitable for more than a year and sales have grown 85 percent annually over the past three.

Inrix generates traffic information based on speed and location information provided by GPS-enabled devices in more than 10 million vehicles, including cars with participating telematics systems and fleet vehicles. Its traffic data is fed to services used by more than 100 million people a day in 22 countries.

Among those offering systems using Inrix data are Audi, Toyota and Ford, including Ford's Sync system. States also use the data for services such as the signs in Washington that provide estimated travel times.

The company also offers traffic apps for smartphones and provides data to others, including nine of the top 10 traffic apps for the iPhone and Android platforms, Mistele said.

Inrix's primary competitors are Navteq and Tom Tom.

The new funding is from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers' Green Growth Fund and August Capital. August was an early backer of Microsoft and is the largest investor in Inrix, which has now raised a total $67 million.

Microsoft gets royalties from Inrix but doesn't have a stake in the company.

About a third of the company's 100 employees have Microsoft backgrounds.

Mistele, a Detroit native, previously was general manager of Microsoft's automotive group and earlier worked at Ford.

Inrix employment should grow 50 to 100 percent over the next year, he said. Its major focus now is expanding in Europe and Asia and it's in the process of opening offices in China.

Asked if Inrix will go public within a year or two, Mistele replied, "It is our aspiration to file to go public sooner rather than later.

"We absolutely aspire to taking this company public," he said, "and we'll do that obviously when we feel the business is ready."

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

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