Russian tech giant Yandex expands Israeli footprint with acquisition of Wind’s Tel Aviv operations

Russian tech giant Yandex is expanding its mobility footprint in Israel with the acquisition of shared e-scooter company Wind’s Israeli operations. The two are not sharing the terms of the deal, but Israeli financial newspaper Globes reported that it is estimated to have cost $40 million to $50 million.

Wind is one of the top e-scooter sharing operators in Israel, alongside competitors like Lime, Leo and Bird. Yandex has already been operating its Yango mobility platform in the country since 2018, starting with ride-hailing and working up to last-mile delivery and food tech. Acquiring Wind will expand this ecosystem by providing a broad variety of last-mile and transportation solutions, according to Yandex.

It’s conceivable that Yango will make use of the extra vehicles on the ground to expand its delivery services. For example, Yandex recently launched Yango Deli, an express grocery delivery service in Tel Aviv, which relies on a network of dark stores around the city. The company started with 14 dark stores and expects that number to double by the end of November.

Included in the acquisition is Wind’s fleet of more than 10,000 made-for-sharing scooters, scooter infrastructure and operation system in Israel, as well as R&D around travel route optimization. Wind, which is based in Berlin and Barcelona, will still maintain control of its operations across Europe. In total, the company has raised $72 million in funding. It serves tens of thousands of customers throughout 13 cities in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and has completed about 4 million trips in total, according to the company.

The Wind acquisition also comes just months after Yandex launched its scooter-sharing platform, called Yandex Go, in Russia. The domestic market fleet is only estimated to be about 5,000 scooters, so this merger will more than double Yandex’s mark. Customers in Russia will now be able to book scooters from the Wind app, as well as order scooters in Israel from the Yango app.

Yandex is also testing out its autonomous delivery rovers in Israel, Ann Arbor and South Korea, and says it is ready to start robotic deliveries once it receives the relevant permit from local authorities.

The company also says it wants to bring its robotaxis to the Yango platform in the near future.

“We’ve been testing our self-driving cars in and around Tel Aviv since early 2019,” a Yandex spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Israel provides us with conditions and challenges to test our technology, which we lack in other testing locations. These are, for example, all kinds of roundabouts, myriads of two-wheeled and micromobility vehicles and of course Mediterranean heat and high humidity.”

Moscow is not traditionally a bike-friendly city due to the cold weather, but during and after lockdown, last-mile delivery skyrocketed and Moscow streets were flooded with couriers on bicycles, according to Yandex.

“Good news — our cars already knew how to deal with it,” said a Yandex spokesperson. “Tel Aviv experience helped us a lot in Moscow during the COVID period.”