India’s VerSe Innovation raises over $450 million to expand Dailyhunt and Josh apps globally

VerSe Innovation, the parent firm of popular news aggregator Dailyhunt and short video app Josh, said on Thursday it has raised over $450 million in a new financing round, just five months after securing $200 million, as the Indian startup looks to expand its offerings to international markets.

Siguler Guff, Baillie Gifford, affiliates of Carlyle Asia Partners Growth II and others financed VerSe Innovation’s Series I round, while existing investors Sofina Group, Qatar Investment Authority and BCap participated.

VerSe Innovation said in a statement that its valuation has more than doubled in the past five months without disclosing a precise figure. The startup was valued at over $1 billion in its Series H financing round.

The Google and Microsoft-backed startup claimed that Josh, which has amassed over 115 million monthly active users, 56 million of whom use the app each day. Dailyhunt, the startup said, has amassed over 300 million monthly active users.

Josh competes with scores of short video apps including Moj and MX TakaTak. All these apps mushroomed after India banned TikTok over cybersecurity concerns in mid-2020 to cash in on the opportunity. ByteDance’s app identified India as its biggest international market, where it had courted over 200 monthly active users.

Moj, which claims to have over 100 million users, is operated by Tiger Global-backed ShareChat that was valued at $2.88 billion in a financing round it unveiled last month. MX TakaTak’s parent firm MX Player is also currently engaging with investors to raise a round that would value the startup at over $1 billion, according to three people aware of the development.

VerSe Innovation is betting on building a family of apps that serves users in scores of local languages. Dailyhunt, for instance, offers its content in 14 languages from over 100,000 content partners and creators. And it plans to replicate the same strategy as it looks to expand in international markets, VerSe Innovation said.

The startup said it also plans to invest in broadening its AI / ML stack to offer users more personalized experience.

The new fundraise comes at a time when Indian startups are raising record capital from high-profile investors. India, which is the world’s second largest internet market, has produced over 20 unicorns this year, up from 11 last year and 6 in 2019. Some investors have also doubled down on the South Asian market after China, one of the other rare big growth markets, enforced a series of regulatory changes that has wiped hundreds of billions of dollars in recent weeks.

This is a developing story. More to follow…