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Audio platform Curio has raised a $9 million Series A round led by European VC fund Earlybird.
VC funds Draper Esprit, Cherry Ventures, and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures also participated in the round, bringing its total funding to $11 million.
Curio is a subscription audio platform offering a curated library of narrated articles chosen by a combination of machine learning and human curation from publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Financial Times.
CEO Govind Balakrishnan says audio is a huge market opportunity beyond just podcasting, adding that 60% of Curio’s subscribers are not podcast listeners.
“There is really great journalism, really great stories and ideas … and all of this often gets subsumed under the daily news agenda,” he told Business Insider. “I thought there is a real opportunity to build what we call a full stack audio platform where we have really great curated content. But, on top of that, you have a product experience that complements the content.”
Curio says it has much higher user engagement than traditional news publications, with the average session for an engaged user on the platform lasting 60 minutes. As much as 40% of US users spend less than 5 minutes on the top US news sites, according to Pew.
Curio says it has seen strong growth through COVID-19, despite the common belief that audio and podcasting is primarily for commuters. The startup says that listening on its platform increased 40% in the past few months.
“People are actually listening a lot more, but what has changed is the type of content that people care about,” Balakrishnan said. “People have really gravitated towards the core of our value proposition, which is the sort of content that helps people do three things: understand the world, improve themselves, and what we call smart escape.”
Curio operates on an ad-free model so that it can focus on using data and content to serve the subscriber and not the advertiser, he said.
It costs $7.99 for a monthly subscription to Curio, or $59.99 annually, a portion of which is used to pay the publishers that the platform partners with for their content.
Curio is prioritizing growth at this stage, added Balakrishnan. “We are at the beginning of this … In a way, profitability is fine, but I think that would be at the cost of actually really building this platform for the future,” he said.
The UK startup, which claims to have tripled its user base every year, has a relatively young core audience, between the ages of 25 and 34, with 40% of subscribers located outside of Western markets.
The funding will be strengthen Curio’s position in the US and UK markets and to expand its presence in other English-speaking countries, as well as to develop AI-driven personalization of the product.
Here’s an exclusive look at the pitch deck it used to bring new investors on board:
Source:: Business Insider