VerSe Innovation, which operates local language news aggregator app Dailyhunt, has completed a USD 100 million-plus funding round from AlphaWave, Google, and Microsoft, at a valuation of over USD 1 billion, the company said on Tuesday.
Existing investors Sofina Group and Lupa Systems also participated in the round. Other backers of Dailyhunt include Matrix Partners India, Sequoia Capital India, Falcon Edge Capital, ByteDance, and Goldman Sachs, among others.
“With this new infusion of capital, the company is now valued at over USD 1 billion, making its debut as the first unicorn in tech for local languages,” VerSe said in a statement.
The Bengaluru-based company plans to use the fresh funding to scale up its short video platform Josh, which it had officially launched in September after running it for 45 days in stealth mode.
Josh, which is available in 12 local languages and had reached 23 million daily active users when it was officially unveiled, aims to lead the market left open by ByteDance-owned TikTok’s unceremonious exit from India.
VerSe will pump in new funds to expand local language offerings, build a content creator ecosystem, and develop AI and ML-based platform for its short video app, which now has 77 million monthly active users and 36 million DAUs.
This essentially means that, in the absence of TikTok, VerSe is stepping up the game to grab the short video market that its existing backer ByteDance had single-handedly created in the last couple of years. The Chinese tech giant first invested in Dailyhunt in 2016 when it led USD 25 million Series D round, along with existing backers including Sequoia, Matrix, and Falcon. Earlier this year, just about the time when India changed FDI regulations that created a roadblock for Chinese investors to put money in Indian entities, ByteDance participated in Dailyhunt’s USD 23.5 million Series G round.
The company claims to have 300 million users on its flagship news aggregator platform Dailyhunt, which supports 14 languages, has over 1,300 publication partners, and features 250,000 news and content pieces every day.
VerSe started its journey as a value-added service company working with telecoms, in 2007 and pivoted to become a B2C firm when it acquired Newshunt, a news aggregator app built by former Nokia employees Chandrashekhar Sohoni and Umesh Kulkarni, in 2012. Three years later, it rebranded itself as Dailyhunt as it emerged as one of the world’s leading news app with three billion page views.
VerSe is reportedly aiming to create a family of apps under Dailyhunt in a bid to become India’s leading digital media business enabling users to discover, consume, and socialize with informative and entertaining content.
“Today, we monetize with advertising, but in the future, we hope to make the journey from content to commerce. So, you will see us driving more use cases across categories,” Umang Bedi, co-founder, Dailyhunt, told local media Your Story in September. Bedi who was the managing director of Facebook India and South Asia, left the company to join Dailyhunt as a president in 2018 and was made co-founder of the company earlier this year.