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Driving Change With Rapha Cohen, Chief Product Officer at Waze

Rapha Cohen on carpooling, the future of mobility, and how to think like a product manager.

The decision to join Waze:

I joined Waze because I saw the vision of convenient, safe, and sustainable mobility. To put it more bluntly, I viscerally hate traffic. I believe cars are dangerous rage engines and roads are scars on the faces of our cities. And contributing to making driving safer and more enjoyable — and more importantly, taking cars off the road with Carpool — was incredibly appealing to me.

How Carpool subverted expectations:

I joined Waze four years ago as one of the first product managers working on Waze Carpool. With Carpool, we started with a simple hypothesis: we could bring the same quality of service as a rideshare but at a lower price point because the drives are happening anyway. What we learned is that it’s not just a more convenient way of commuting; it’s also solving acute mobility issues. For many people, the alternatives would be taking three buses for two hours just to get to work. And this puts us in a totally different mindset when we think about our users.

Waze’s chief product officer Rapha Cohen can’t wait to get back to conferences.
Remember conferences? I hope to do this again one day.

Expanding the product vision:

In the Waze Navigation app, we’re focusing more on trip preparation because we’ve realized we can help our users so much more that way. If we interact with our users at the beginning of their trip, we can help them save four or five minutes by suggesting an alternate route. But if we can meet them before they leave — either the night before or even just a few minutes before — we can have a much bigger impact by letting them know the best time to leave or who to ride with.

Looking beyond cars:

Personally, I hope the future of transportation doesn’t involve cars. I don’t think it’s a good solution. Although in sprawling cities, suburban areas and many other use cases, I do think cars will remain an important part of the transportation network. But they’ll need to be clean, efficient, safe, cheap and, of course, shared.

How to think like a product manager:

Product managers need to be product philosophers. They need to have a strong yet adaptive worldview. It’s about how they see the world, how they think the world should look, and then expressing hypotheses about how they can impact it for the better. My product philosophy is to inform my worldview with as many disciplines as possible. It’s not only technical skills, business, or design skills — those are just the basics. History, anthropology, sociology — all of these things are super important to the product manager skill set.

Rapha Cohen, chief product officer at Waze, always keeps something to doodle with on his desk.
The best way to stay focused during a video call? Doodling.

Collaborating with the Waze Community:

It’s challenging to find the right balance because the Community members who we work with closely — the ones who bring us ideas and give us feedback — are all very engaged. They’re power users. They know a lot about Waze, how to use the product, and where to find every feature — sometimes more than the product managers themselves.

What everyone should know about working at Waze:

Waze shows that you can build great things at scale while having an incredible working environment. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it makes people grow professionally and personally.

Lightning round!

What three things are always on your desk?

Sparkling water, espresso and a crayon I’ve borrowed from my daughter that I use for doodling, which helps me stay focused.

What is your biggest pet peeve on the road?

What people become when they’re a couple of car windows away from each other. We have built our cities and our communities around an engine that can bring out the worst in people, and that’s terrible. There is one exception: when you’re with someone else in the car, you do behave like a better person.

What is your favorite thing to listen to in the car?

Podcasts. Ran Levi, Sam Harris, Scott Galloway — those are my three favorites.

How would you describe Waze in three words?

Learn, improve and impact.

Which Mood do you relate to the most?

I like Skeptical because I think that skepticism and critical thinking are among the most wonderful human traits. And Carsick because, well, I get carsick easily.



Waze creates community on and off the road. Bringing together drivers, riders, municipalities, first responders and transit authorities, we solve transportation problems, improve mobility and work to end traffic altogether.

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