Wiretap: Jerry Yang’s latest investment aims to make drivers smarter

Something I (and others) have noticed lately is how much Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang has been investing in startups. Since quitting the company’s board early last year, Yang and his AME Cloud Ventures have plowed dough into dozens, ranging from Toronto-based Wattpad, an online community for writers, to Lex Machina, a Stanford spin-out that helps companies  navigate the patent system.

Now Yang’s at it again, with Thursday’s announcement that he and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin are among those putting $1.5 million into a stealth-mode  startup called Zendrive. It’s the product of two Facebook and Google alums, and, Yang told me via e-mail, ““Talent always comes first in our investment philosophy.”

It’s not entirely clear just what San Francisco-based Zendrive does. In a blog post, CEO Jonathan Matus wrote that the app gives people more information about their driving and helps them use that to make better decisions. He notes that while plenty of folks sport Fitbits and FuelBands to keep track of how much they’re walking, running or sleeping, “no one has done a good job at measuring and pulling insights for our driving behaviors.” Zendrive co-founder and CEO Jonathan Matus

Matus offers the example of a young driver able to negotiate a better rate from his insurance company by showing data that compares his driving to that of others. Or — and let’s just use a crazy example here — say a major bridge in the Bay Area were going to be closed for several days; because Zendrive knows your commute, it can suggest an alternate route the night before to avoid traffic jams.

Though Zendrive’s private beta won’t launch for a while yet, Yang told me the founders’ backgrounds in mobile apps and big data have resulted in “an innovative approach to promote better driving habits.” That’s something my colleague Mr. Roadshow would applaud.



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