Kumu raises Series C to build world's largest participatory social network 🤝

Freddie Luchterhand-Dare
October 27, 2021

Actively supporting the creator economy and shaping the future of content

We are thrilled to have participated in the Series C raise for Filipino social entertainment platform Kumu, led by General Atlantic – a leading global growth equity firm with more than 40 years of experience scaling disruptive businesses internationally. This transaction marks the largest equity financing to date for a Filipino startup not founded as a subsidiary or spinoff of an established conglomerate.

In 2020, we led the Series A, and Hian Goh explains what was behind this decision: “as a regional fund, Openspace has always recognised the Philippines’ potential to become a vibrant startup market in Southeast Asia. This belief, combined with our proprietary data, gave us the confidence to make an early investment in Kumu - and to double down now through our mid-stage growth fund, OSV+. In addition, our operations and tech team will continue to work closely with the team to support their impressive growth and journey to becoming a truly participatory social network – and what’s most exciting is that the best is yet to come for Kumu, as they find new ways to champion Filipino culture and creativity across the world."

Kumu was launched in 2018 as a live streaming app, and has since amassed a base of over 10 million registered users and counting from over 55 countries. In that time, it has ranked as the#1 top grossing social app in the Philippines and top 10 in multiple markets including Canada,Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Its business model is driven by tools like virtual gifting, advertising, and e-commerce, which allow content creators to convert engagement into income.

“The first generation of social media was defined by passive engagement, where the platform wins through advertising, but all except the top 1% of creators struggle to earn a living,” said Rexy Dorado, president and co-founder of Kumu. “We are early movers in this movement towards a genuine creator economy where anyone can earn a sustainable income from just a hundred true fans each.”

Kumu invests in experiences that enable audiences to engage more fully with the premium content that they love – while forming direct and authentic connections along the way – in ways they never could before. The company has co-produced the last two seasons of the hit TV show Pinoy Big Brother, and through Kumu, users are able to win a spot as a housemate, vote to evict or save their favorite contestants, and influence what happens inside the house in realtime. Kumu has also teamed up with the top-grossing Filipino film director Cathy Garcia-Molinato produce a movie in which Kumu users can earn a spot as a co-star or as part of the film’s soundtrack.

“We are excited to put this new capital to work by investing not only in the best Filipino content, but beyond that, making Kumu the home for groundbreaking, innovative content formats that blur the line between content consumption and content creation,” said Dorado.

“We are less than one percent of the way to our goal,” said Roland Ros, Kumu’s founder and CEO. “Our team is thrilled to take on the challenge of creating a consumer internet champion in the Philippines. Billions of dollars are being spent on internet infrastructure, and you have a market of over 100 million people with a median age that is GenZ and Millennial, with affordable,4G-capable smartphones. That together is a perfect playground for us to build a social platform at global scale that is founded upon deep engagement and positivity.”

The company has seen early signals of product-market fit beyond the Philippines, with non-Filipinos in the U.S. and Europe gravitating to its unique brand of community engagement. Kumu has been recognized globally as a “Disneyland of social media” enforcing authenticity, positivity, and safety through its community-driven content moderation system.

Driving growth in the emerging Philippine start-up ecosystem

Earlier this year, the company announced its Series B co-led by Susquehanna International Group (SIG), an early investor in Bytedance as well as Middle East audio streaming app Yalla and real-time engagement platform Agora.

This raise comes at a unique period in time for the Philippine startup ecosystem. Kumu was among the first batch of Filipino startups to raise a Series B in 2021, and its Series C is the first of its kind to be announced in the country. The transaction brings Kumu’s total funding to over US$100m.

Kumu believes that the Philippines is at a tipping point: structural and behavioral changes have led to internet and social media penetration increasing by almost 10% yearly. Filipinos, staying true to their country’s reputation that has been described as "the social media capital of the world," spend at least 10 hours of their days online and dedicate at least 4 of those to social media alone. Kumu is uniquely positioned to channel this energy: members of its official communities spend as much as 60-80 hours a week on the platform, and over half of all views and transactions in the platform happen between users who mutually follow one another.

"At Kumu, we seek to acquire a larger share of users' mindshare and make even a couple of those hours spent online as delightful as possible for content creators and consumers alike,"says Dana De La Vega, Kumu’s VP of Strategic Management.

The company also plans to continue investing in experienced talent to lead the charge towards its ambitions. “I’m honored to join Kumu and take on its mission of building the largest participatory social network in the world,” said Crystal Widjaja, Gojek’s former head of growth, when she joined Kumu as its Chief Product Officer earlier this year. “For us, the ultimate goal is to be there and provide authentic connections when you’re bored, lonely, or feel disconnected.I’m thrilled and inspired to see how we become a larger part of the world’s everyday life, and the friendships we make along the way.”