The startup will use the money to strengthen its AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) capabilities and invest in new efforts such as live streaming and Web 3.0, giving it ammunition to battle local rivals such as ShareChat and global competitors such as Instagram and YouTube.
This is also the largest funding round by an Indian startup this year, especially at a time when investors are turning cautious and taking a long time to close deals. Dailyhunt's $805 million tops the list so far, followed by Swiggy which raised $700 million. Others who raised over $400 million include Polygon, Byju's, and Uniphore.
The investment was led by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) with $425 million infusion. Other investors include Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’), Luxor Capital, and Sumeru Ventures.
So far the company has raised over $2 billion in funding, of which $1.5 billion was raised in the last year alone.
VerSe Innovation was founded by Virendra Gupta and Shailendra Sharma in 2007. Umang Bedi joined the firm in February 2018. The company launched short video platform Josh in 2020 soon after the TikTok ban and has clocked significant growth.
Gupta and Bedi said in a joint statement, “This partnership will strengthen our ability and leadership to deliver on our vision to build the largest AI-powered local language content platform across a family of apps serving the next billion users.”
“With a strategic focus on video content and building for India, we have seen explosive growth emerging from the next billion users coming out of regional India. This investment comes at a time when we’re on a path to further expand our offerings, monetisation models, deliver superlative Web 3.0 experiences for the globe and create an IPO-scale business,” they added.
VerSe Innovation has three key consumer technology platforms: Dailyhunt, Josh, and PublicVibe.
Dailyhunt, which has over 350 million users, is close to breakeven. Josh, its short video platform, has 150 million monthly active users (MAUs), and the firm will look to monetise the platform from this month. PublicVibe, a hyperlocal video platform, has over five million monthly active users.
Live commerce, Web3
The company will also launch a live commerce feature in the coming weeks and is in talks with large marketplaces on the same. The firm’s key competitor, ShareChat’s Moj, launched live commerce in October 2021 in partnership with Flipkart.
InMobi's Glance, which recently received $200 million in funding from Jio, is also betting big on live commerce through its short video app Roposo. With the backing of Reliance Retail, which also runs JioMart, Roposo's live commerce move will get a significant boost.While he did not elaborate on the Web3 initiatives, Bedi said that it will be a key focus for the firm.