June 19, 2024
Abu Dhabi's ADIA explores investment in India's Pocket FM

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund ADIA is in talks to back Pocket FM in a large new round of funding, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch, as the Indian audio-storytelling platform makes deeper inroads in the U.S.

The talks for the new round, which have been ongoing for more than a month, follow Pocket FM recently securing about $100 million in a separate round of funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, the sources said, requesting anonymity as the details are not yet public.

TechCrunch reported about Lightspeed Venture Partners engaging to invest in Pocket FM last year. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup’s talks with ADIA and closure of its recent round haven’t been previously reported.

The funding deliberations follow fast-paced revenue growth at the Indian startup, which offers serialized fiction and non-fiction content spanning genres like romance, self-help and motivation. Its annualized revenue run rate toward the end of last year had exceeded $160 million, TechCrunch previously reported, a six-to-seven times increase over a year ago.

ADIA and Pocket FM haven’t reached a deal yet, so the talks may end up not materializing into an investment, people familiar with the matter cautioned. ADIA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, whereas Pocket FM said it refrains from commenting on market speculations.

Pocket FM — which also counts Tencent, Tanglin and Times Internet among its backers — had publicly set a goal of reaching an ARR of $100 million by the end of 2023.

Image Credits: Bain

Indian startups experienced a significant decline in large-scale funding rounds last year as prominent crossover funds, including Tiger Global and SoftBank, reduced their investments in India and other markets, while many well-known India-focused funds shifted their attention to backing early-stage startups, Bain said this week.

Several sovereign funds, including ADIA, Temasek, GIC and Qatar Investment Authority, ramped up the pace of their investments last year, cutting large-check sizes to late-stage startups such as PhonePe, Lenskart and PharmEasy.

Pocket FM’s expansion into the U.S., and offering customers a non-subscription, pay-as-you-go offering has proven especially successful. Pocket FM operates on a freemium model, leveraging long-form episodic storytelling to give users the choice to pay only for content they prefer rather than the entire library.

This approach has allowed the startup to offer free access to episodes every 24 hours, with a fee for additional content. Since early 2022, the platform has employed a micro-transaction model, enabling users to purchase coins in local currency to redeem for episodes beyond the free quota. On average, listeners spend more than 110 minutes daily on the platform, TechCrunch previously reported.

The startup announced last month that it will invest $40 million to grow its online reading platform Pocket Novel. More than 90,000 writers had signed up to the app in less than a month, Pocket FM co-founder Rohan Nayak wrote on LinkedIn this week.

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