US$800 million, in any context, is a head-turning amount of money. And earlier this month, it turned a lot of heads in the Indian startup system for 15-year-old VerSe Innovation. VerSe is the parent company of veteran news aggregator Dailyhunt and the younger short-video platform Josh.
The Bengaluru-based firm raised the eye-popping amount—part of its series J fundraise—from a group of investors led by the Canadian government-owned CPP Investments. The round saw its valuation soar to US$5 billion US$5 billion TechCrunch Dailyhunt and Josh apps parent firm raises $805 million at $5 billion valuation Read more , an unheard-of amount for an Indian ad-tech company. What’s more, the fundraise came less than eight months after its previous previous TechCrunch India’s VerSe Innovation raises over $450 million to expand Dailyhunt and Josh apps globally Read more funding round—where it raised a cool $450 million at a valuation of $3 billion. The firm counts Chinese behemoth Bytedance among its many investors.
A slew of news stories followed, all touting the company’s claims of monthly active user (MAU) numbers— over 350 million over 350 million Fortune India DailyHunt parent VerSe Innovation scores $805 mn in funding Read more for Dailyhunt, and about 150 million for Josh Josh Financial Express Dailyhunt aims to go public in 2-3 years; to invest more in merger & acquisitions Read more . Just before the fundraiser was announced, VerSe filed its financials for the year ended March 2021. It reported that its total revenue had grown to Rs 726.8 crore (US$94.9 million)—nearly 7X growth compared to its revenue in the previous fiscal year.
So far, it has been a clear-cut narrative. Dailyhunt is the undisputed leader in the digital news aggregation industry. So much so that multiple executives across the news, short video, and advertising industries that spoke to The Ken for the story struggled to think of comparable competitors. Most of these executives declined to be identified for the story as they did not want to comment on VerSe publicly.
However, VerSe doesn’t operate in an easy environment.