Amid Twitter India turmoil, Koo app raises $30 million at six times valuation


Bengaluru: Homegrown microblogging platform Koo, pegged as an Indian alternative to Twitter, has raised $30 million from new investors at six times
its previous valuation.

The Koo app is now valued at over $100 million.

The capital infusion comes at a time when social media platforms, including the US-based Twitter, are
facing increased government scrutiny over alleged non-compliance with
India’s new IT rules for significant social media intermediaries. Koo
has complied with the rules.

New York-based investment firm Tiger Global is leading Koo’s new funding round, while there are two new investors—IIFL’s venture capital fund and South Korea’s Mirae Asset Management, co-founder Aprameya Radhakrishna told ET in an exclusive interaction. Existing investors 3one4 Capital, Accel and
Blume Ventures also participated in the funding round.

Aprameya RadhakrishnaETtech

Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder of Koo app. (Illustration: Rahul Awasthi/ETtech)

The Koo app, which is available in English and regional languages, is also setting up an advisory council, similar to Facebook’s Oversight Board, which
recently upheld a ban on former US President Donald Trump’s account.

“This gives us a big boost in terms of financial resources. We can recruit talented people, invest more in technology, work further on the product, and ensure that the systems are not hacked at this scale of operations. We are doing this to cater to the next wave (of users),” Radhakrishna told ET.

Koo
recently enabled a talk-to-type feature for users.

Radhakrishna said the platform will soon enable posts to be sent in multiple languages to different communities by translating it through its technology. Hindi and English are its top two used languages, followed by Tamil, Kannada and Marathi.

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Koo app downloads have touched nearly 6 million, from around 3-4 million in February.

Twitter vs Koo (1)ETtech

(Graphic: Rahul Awasthi/ETtech)

Twitter’s recent troubles with the government have helped the Indian app gain in installs but it still has some way to go in terms of user engagement on certain metrics.

According to app tracking firm App Annie’s Android data estimates, which ET sourced through industry executives, Koo app had 4.7 million monthly active users (MAU) and under 0.6 million daily active users (DAU) in April. In comparison, Twitter’s MAU was 68 million, while its DAU was 26.3 million in April. Average active user days in one month was less than four days for Koo in April, compared to 11 days for Twitter.

Twitter vs Koo (2)ETtech

(Graphic: Rahul Awasthi/ETtech)

Radhakrishna declined to share these metrics but said its user engagement has been increasing steadily and the time spent on its app had also gone up since February. The company has a large user base to tap into, given its focus on local languages, he added.

Also Read:
Koo and the quest for an Atmanirbhar social network

Advisory council mandate

Koo’s advisory council will essentially take quick decisions on certain posts and content that might be in the ‘grey’ zone.

While a final decision on any “objectionable content” will be taken after considering multiple factors (including authorities’ take), the advisory council will be sent instances which need immediate attention.

“Out of 100 users, it would perhaps be only 2-3 people who will create something that could be objectionable. We don’t want to be the judge, but there will be instances which need quick solutions in the interim,” Radhakrishna said.

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Koo is still in talks with multiple people to be part of this council.

It is expected to consist of 3-5 members in the beginning, Radhakrishna said.

Also Read:
Neither Left nor Right, Koo perches firmly on the fence

Changing cap table

Chinese fund Shunwei Capital was an investor in Bombinate Technologies, the parent firm of Koo and Vokal,
but it exited the firm following a backlash against Chinese investors amid an India-China border standoff in Ladakh last year.

Angel investors like Nikhil Kamath of Zerodha, Udaan’s Sujeet Kumar, and Ashish Hemrajani of BookMyShow, among others, bought Shunwei’s shares along with some existing investors in Koo. Radhakrishna previously founded ride-hailing app TaxiForSure and sold it to Ola in 2016 for about $200 million.



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