Investors are backing Koo, an Indian alternative to Twitter, with oversized checks at a time when tension is mounting between the US social network and New Delhi.
The Indian startup said on Wednesday it had raised $ 30 million in a funding round led by Tiger Global Management. Mirae Asset, the IIFR’s venture capital fund and existing investors 3one4 Capital, Blume Ventures and Accel also participated in the round, which valued the Bangalore-based start-up at over $ 100 million, compared to around $ 100 million. $ 25 million in February.
Like Twitter, the Koo app allows users to post articles in English and half a dozen Indian languages. Its interface, logo, and social sharing mechanism are surprisingly similar to Twitter’s.
The app has grown in popularity in India in recent months following outbreaks between Twitter and the Indian government after the San Francisco-based company refused to block accounts criticizing New Delhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year .
(The Indian government, like that of Singapore, also ordered Twitter and Facebook last week to remove posts identifying a new variant of the coronavirus as an “Indian variant.” Also last week, New Delhi opposed Twitter’s labeling of some of its politicians’ tweets as manipulated media. Earlier this week, Delhi police visited Twitter offices to “serve notice.”)
Several senior government officials – including Trade Minister Piyush Goyal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, Union Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad – and many celebrities have signed up on Koo in recent months and urged their followers to follow suit.
Although the app – co-founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna (who also co-founded TaxiForSure, which was sold to local giant Ola; and is a prolific angel investor) – has gained investor confidence, it has yet to gain traction. .
The Koo app, launched last year, had less than 6.5 million monthly active users in India in April, according to mobile analytics company App Annie (data which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch) .
The startup says it aims to create a social network for the entire country and not just a fraction of it. Twitter remains widely popular among users in urban cities in India.
Koo, whose initial traction was attributed to Hindu nationalists, is currently one of the few social networks to comply with India’s new IT rules which grant New Delhi more power to remove posts it deems offensive .
The revised IT rules, announced in February, will put an end to “double standards” by making platforms more accountable to local law, government officials said at the time. Failure to comply with this rule could deprive social networks of the safe harbor protection they enjoy.
The deadline for complying with the new rules expires on Wednesday. Facebook, which identifies India as its largest market, said it “aims to comply” with the new rules, while Google said in a statement that it “respects” India’s legislative process.
Koo is Tiger Global’s latest investment in India this year. The hedge fund, which has backed more than 20 Indian unicorns, has become the most prolific investor in Indian startups in recent months, gaining founders with its investment pace, check size and favorable terms.