Uri Levine will flat-out tell you that the co-founders of Waze didn’t own much of the company when they sold it to Google for more than $US1 billion in 2013.
Most of the money went to the investors, he told Business Insider.
The gossip in Israel is that Levine didn’t walk with that much cash given the total amount involved. One Isreali news site estimated his take was about $US38 million, or about 3%.
Even so, that’s still a lot of money. Enough to immediately go out on his own instead of working for Google. (The rest of the co-founders and execs did choose to go to Google.)
We heard tales that Levine was enjoying a jet-setting life, dashing off the Alps to ski at the drop of the hat.
That’s sort of true, and sort of not.
It’s true he’s a big skier and travels frequently to the Alps. But this was a hobby he was into before Waze was bought, going four or five times a year for week-long ski trips, he told us.
That’s a first-world hobby, for sure, but a plane ticket from Tel Aviv to the Alps isn’t astronomical. It can cost less than $US500 for the 4+ hour flight.
His big splurge, he said, was to spend an 8-week vacation in the Alps skiing after the deal closed.
And the first thing he bought after the acquisition? A new mountain bike, a carbon Specialised StumpJumper. That’s a good bike that can run you over $US3,000, but it’s not a top-of-the-line splurge like an Specialised S-Works StumpJumper, which costs about $US10,000.
Why didn’t he get the top-of-the-line bike? He’s not “that aggressive” of a rider, he told us. And he likes to commute on his bike, too.
Has he bought houses or cars? Nope.
“Nothing crazy. I live in a rental apartment. It makes perfect sense for me,” he told us. And he doesn’t own a house in the Alps either.
What he does spend his money on is in investing in startups. He’s become a major Angel investor in Israel’s hot startup scene.
The investment theme he lovesik to back? Saving money.
For instance, he’s chairman of a startup he launched while still working at Waze, called FeeX. That’s a service that helps you save money on financial services and investment funds. (Levine says saves its users an average of $US50,000).
Another startup is Fairfly. It monitors airfare prices after people buy their tickets and if it finds a lower one including cancellation fees, it re-books the flight for them.
“People over-pay $US100 billion a year because don’t check the prices after they booked a ticket,” he says. So, to his way of thinking, Fairfly is looking at a $US100 billion market opportunity.
Then there’s FairSale, an app in stealth that saves you money on stuff you already bought. Scan your receipt with your phone and if that product goes on sale, it helps you collect on a store’s price guarantee. Levine says people throw away $US130 billion by ignoring such low-price guarantees.
Zeek is a service that helps you buy or trade store credit/gift vouchers, rather than letting them expire.
Engie is new one in the works. It’s an app that saves you money on car repairs by connecting to your car’s diagnostics computer so you know exactly what’s wrong before you take the car to the mechanic.
Plus, he’s involved with handful of other startups.
One interesting note: he has five kids between the ages 14 and 25. The two oldest, ages 21 and 25, are both doing startups themselves.
Can they count on their dad, one of their nation’s most famous and prolific angel investors, to back them?
Yes, but only to a point.
“I want them to be successful and happy, independently and not because of me,” he tells us.
So he’s willing to offer seed money but no more.
“In general, I’m not supporting them after the seed round. If they are unable to raise funds independently, then sooner or later they will fail,” he says.