News aggregation website SmartNews announced that it has secured $230 million in Series F funding. The round brings SmartNews’ total funding to over $400 million and values the company at $2 billion– a ‘double unicorn’, as the company boasted in its press release.
Participants in the round were existing investors including ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital. The financing also included new U.S. investors Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners, as well as JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi-No.10 Family Office in Japan.
SmartNews was founded in Japan in 2012 and launched in the United States in 2014. Per its website, it strives to deliver quality information for users through advanced algorithms and simple user interfaces and supporting quality content creators for the betterment of society. It locates and organizes articles, making it easy for users to find and learn about anything of their interests. This way, readers’ experiences are personalized. The app also makes it possible to read without an active Internet connection, boosting convenience.
For SmartNews, advertising is a major source of income, rather than subscriptions. To generate revenue, the company sells inline ads and video ads. The company has said in the past that 85-90 percent of Americans do not pay to subscribe to news. It however believes that people still have a right to access quality information. To provide news to consumers, SmartNews gathers news stories from third-party sources. In total, SmartNews has dealings with more than 3,000 global publishing partners whose content is available through its service on the web and mobile devices. Among SmartView partners are well-known brands like USA Today, ABC, HuffPost, and others.
Since its launch in 2014, SmartNews has experienced tremendous growth despite fierce competition from built-in aggregators like Apple News. In 2019, the company said it had grown to 20 million monthly active users in the United States and Japan. While it did not disclose the current numbers, it said its monthly active users in the United States had doubled over the last year.
The company said that the new funds will be used to expand its team and further its growth in the United States. “This latest round of funding further affirms the strength of our mission, and fuels our drive to expand our presence and launch features that specifically appeal to users and publishers in the United States,” SmartNews Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Suzuki said. He also added that “our investors both in the U.S. and globally acknowledge the tremendous growth potential and value of SmartNews’s efforts to democratize access to information and create an ecosystem that benefits consumers, publishers, and advertisers.”
The startup plans to develop more features that will focus on consumer health and safety for its U.S. audience — one of its largest, alongside Japan. The features will roll out in the next few months and will include features for tracking wildfires and crime and safety reports. It also recently launched a hurricane tracker.
According to the Wall Street Journal, SmartNews may be considering an Initial Public Offering, the news, however, has not yet been confirmed.