Homegrown social-media company Koo, which was launched last year as a competitor to Twitter, raised $30 million as part of a Series B round, and is now valued at $150 million. The fresh round of funding will be utilised mainly to strengthen engineering, product and community efforts across all Indian languages at Koo, the company said in a statement.
Koo’s fundraise comes at a time when its primary competitor Twitter is going through a legal ordeal with the Delhi Police and Government of India. Twitter is fighting two battles at the same time: The first is related to a political fight between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress and the second, related to applicability of and compliance with the new Information Technology Rules 2021.
“We have aggressive plans to grow into one of the world’s largest social media platforms in the next few years. Every Indian is cheering for us to get there soon. Tiger Global is the right partner to have onboard to realise this dream,” Koo co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna said in a statement. While existing investors like Tiger Global Capital, 3one4 Capital, Kalaari Capital, Accel and Blue Ventures participated in the round, the company has now roped in financial-giant IIFL’s venture capital fund and Mirae Asset Management as new investors.
Koo is an Indian-made microblogging platform, which rose to sudden prominence last month as a replacement of sorts to Twitter. Koo has since become a safe space of sorts for supporters of the Indian government, who believe that Twitter censors specific content and is biased towards critics of the government. Several prominent Indian leaders and ministers in the ruling BJP government, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, signed up onto Koo after Koo also won the government’s Atma Nirbhar Challenge in August 2020, bolstering the app’s Indian-made credentials.
In March, Chinese venture capital firm Shunwei Capital exited its investment in Bombinate Technologies, the parent company of Koo. This was after the company drew flak for having a Chinese-origin investor when it was promoted as a made-in-India app. Shunwei Capital held a little more than a 9% stake in the parent company at the time. Koo raised funds from several startup founders like Udaan co-founder Sujeet Kumar, Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Zerodha founder Nikhil Kamath and Silicon Valley veterans like Naval Ravikant and Balaji Srinivasan.
According to an Economic Times report, the company has 6 million downloads as of date. The report sourced data from App Annie, which revealed that Koo has 4.7 million monthly active users (MAU) and under 0.6 million daily active users (DAU) in April, compared to 69 million MAUs and 26.3 million DAUs on Twitter in India. The report also said that Koo is setting up an advisory board that will take decisions on certain posts and content that might be in a ‘grey’ zone. This is a similar governance mechanism to Facebook’s Oversight Board which has appointed external experts to adjudicate on content moderation issues
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