When TikTok (along with a host of other Chinese apps) banned by the Indian government two years ago, it opened the way for Indian apps to showcase their talent and fill the void left by TikTok. Add to that the intensified funding game that the Indian startup sector has been witnessing since last year (though it has cooled down a bit now), and you have an idea why these startups and apps have grown so much in such a short time.
One such short form video app is ‘Josh’, which has now gobbled up $805 million in its latest Series J funding round. With this, the company is now valued at an enviable $5 billion. Josh parent Verse Innovations, which also owns popular news app Dailyhunt, it has now raised over $2 billion in funding, including $1.5 billion over the past year. Most of this money is primarily targeted at Josh.
Incidentally, this is the largest funding round by any Indian startup this year, ahead of funding rounds raised by Swiggy, Byju’s, and Polygon. But then again, Indian startups raised $42 billion in funding (which birthed over 40 unicorns) last year, so this does not come as a surprise.
The round was led by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), which put in $425 million. The round also included participation from other investors including Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’), Luxor Capital, and Sumeru Ventures as well as Sofina Group and Baillie Gifford.
VerSe intends to use the proceeds from the round to strengthen its AI/ML capabilities and make investments in new spheres such as Web 3.0 and live streaming to compete with Instagram YouTube, ShareChat, and others.
“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, monetization models, deliver superlative Web 3.0 experiences for the globe and create an IPO-scale business,” said Virendra Gupta and Umang Bedi, co-founders of VerSe.
The company currently operates the news aggregator DailyHunt (which has over 350 million users), a short video platform and TikTok replacement Josh (which has over 150 MAUs), and the recently-launched video platform PublicVibe (which has over 5 million MAUs).