SmartNews, a Tokyo-headquartered news aggregation website and app that’s grown in popularity despite hefty competition from built-in aggregators like Apple News, announced it has closed on $230 press release, a “double unicorn.” (Ha!) The funding included new U.S. investors Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment, and Yamauchi-No.10 Family Office in Japan. Existing investors participating in this round included ACA Investments and SMBC .F funding. The round brings SmartNews’ total raised to over $400 million and values the business at $2 billion — or, as the company touts in its
Founded in 2012 in Japan, the company launched in the U.S. in 2014 andlast year. While the app’s content team includes former journalists, picks which article readers can use to personalize their experience. However, one of the app’s key differentiators is how it pops users’ “filter bubbles” through its “News From All Sides” feature, to access news from various political perspectives. It has also developed new products, like its dashboard and U.S. election dashboard, that provide critical information at a glance. With the additional funds, the plans to develop more features for its U.S. audience and safety. These will roll out in the next few months, including tracking wildfires and crime and safety reports. It also recently launched a hurricane tracker.
The aggregator’s business model primarily focuses on advertising; as the company has said before that, 85-90% of Americans aren’t paying to subscribe to news. But SmartNews believe these news consumers still have a right to access quality information. In total, SmartNews has relationships with more than 3,000 global publishing partners whose content is . The company sells inline and video ads to generate revenue, where payment is shared with publishers. Over 75% of its publishing partners also tushies the “SmartView” feature. This is the app’s quick-reading mode, an alternative to Google AMP. Here, users can quickly load an article to read, even iffline. The company promises publishers that these mobile-friendly stories, marked with a icon in the app, deliver higher engagement — and its algorithm rewards that type of content, bringing them more readers. Among SmartView partners are well-known brands like , ABC, HuffPost, and others. Over 70% of all SmartNews page views come from SmartView first.
SmartNews’ app has proven to be very sticky in attracting and keeping users’ attention. The company tells us, citing App Annie July 2021 data, that it sees anper month on U.S. mobile News combined. The company declined to share its (MAUs) but haid in 2019; it is grown to 20 million in the U.S. and Japan. Today, it says its U.S. MAUs doubled over the . According to to us by Apptopia, the SmartNews app has seen around 85 million downloads since its October 2014 launch and 14 million of those took place in the past 365 days. The , accounting for 59% of lifetime downloads.
“This latest round of funding further affirms the strength of our mission and fuels ourthat specifically appeal to users and publishers in the United States,” said SmartNews co-founder and CEO Ken Suzuki. “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,” he added. The company says the new in further U.S. . Since its last fundraiser in 2019, it has become a unicorn; it has more than doubled its headcount to approximately 500 people globally. It now plans to double its headcount of 100 in the U.S., with additions across engineering, product, and leadership roles. The SmartNews app is available on iOS and Androidins more than 150 countriee. The Journal reports SmartNews is exploring an IPO, but the company declined to comment