In what is India’s largest venture capital round this year, Indian social content startup VerSe Innovation has raised USD805 million in a Series J funding round. The company launched its short video app just four days after Indian banned Tik Tok.
Just over half the investment, USD 425 million, was raised from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the company announced. Other investors in the round included Luxor Capital, Sumeru Ventures, and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board. Existing investors included Sofina Group and Baillie Gifford, who also participated in the investment round.
VerSe Innovation Ltd. Is now valued at USD5 Billion.
The company, based in Bangalore, India, owns and runs the Josh app, which is targeted at non-English speaking users who live outside the top six affluent cities in India. Josh is often billed as the Instagram for India. VerSe also owns regional language content delivery platform Dailyhunt, which is also focused on the same target audience.
Dailyhunt has 350 million users, while the Josh app has 150 million active monthly users. 90 percent of the content of these two apps is in native languages.
Short video apps in India saw spiralling growth after the country banned Chinese-made apps like Tik Tok and many others in 2020. ShareChat, one such Indian company, is attempting to raise USD200 million from investors which include Google and Temasek, at a total valuation of USD5 billion.
Virendra Gupta, founder of VerSe said that the company will attain profitability within the next two to three years.
VerSe said it will utilize the capital to enhance its AI and Machine Learning functionalities, using data science to increase user retention and engagement. The company also plans to drive revenue through influencer-led commerce and live commerce.
The startup, which has built one of the largest adtech businesses in the country and is also driving commerce through its apps, is valued at nearly $5 billion in the new round, up from about $3 billion just eight months ago, according to its co-founders.
The startup says it raised capital after receiving a plethora of inbound offers and that the new capital, along with its existing reserves, gives it runway for “several years.”
The startups short video app, Josh, has amassed over 150 million users, 50 million of whom create and publish content. The app, which has partnered with 15 music labels, clocks over 80 billion plays on its app each month, the startup said.
News aggregator app Dailyhunt, which operates in 15 languages and has a creator ecosystem of over 100,000 content partners, has over 350 million users, whereas the startup’s recently launched app PublicVibe now serves over 5 million monthly active users.
A monetization bet that is working for Josh is influencers-led commerce. Scores of creators on its platform are selling items from popular brands — and sometimes their own private labels — on the platform.
Most downloaded Indian video-sharing app
The startup is now also exploring ways to embrace Web3 to widen its monetization capabilities. The company declined to reveal specifics about how VerSe plans to tackle the world of tokens and NFTs, or identity the blockchain it will be using, but said the startup’s efforts will be evident in a few months.
VerSe was founded in the year 2007, as a pioneering expedition in the consumer-facing internet business.
The organization from its inception was heavily inclined towards the leading edge of technological development. It aimed to bridge the urban-rural digital divide in the country.
With a substantial footprint in the value-added service ecosystem, VerSe broke new ground in the content and entertainment domain.
This foray was augmented in large part owing to the company’s heavy investment in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
This effort resulted in a proprietary technology that powers a platform occupied by 300 million+ users to consume content in their local language.
In continuation with its ability to gauge the pulse of the nation, VerSe engaged its technological tool kit and the brilliant minds that drive this technology to launch India’s leading short video app – Josh, an app that has crossed over 100 million downloads.
Today, VerSe Innovation is a content technology platform company and India’s first tech unicorn focused on local languages.