InMobi's Glance turns unicorn with $145 mn investment from Google, Mithril

Glance will use the new investment to deepen its AI capability including Roposo, a fast-growing video-sharing social media platform.
Glance, the world’s leading lock-screen platform owned by Bengaluru-based mobile ad network InMobi Group, has raised $145 million from technology (tech) giant Google and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital, an existing investor in the company.

A co-founder of PayPal and Big Data firm Palantir Technologies, Thiel is known to have invested in Facebook, Airbnb, and SpaceX.

The new financing round has helped the 18-month-old Glance to become the fastest company to reach unicorn status or a start-up valued at more than $1 billion, revealed industry sources.

InMobi itself became India’s first unicorn when it received an investment of $200 million from SoftBank in 2011.

Glance will use the new investment to deepen its artificial intelligence (AI) capability, including Roposo, a fast-growing video-sharing social media platform, owned by the firm.

It will expand its tech team, launch services on the platform, further strengthen the brand, and drive expansion into global markets, including the US and South America.

“Glance is a great example of innovation solving for mobile-first and mobile-only consumption, serving content across many of India’s local languages,” said Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Google.

“Still too many Indians have trouble finding content to read or services they can use confidently, in their own language. This significantly limits the value of the internet for them, particularly at a time when the worldwide web is the lifeline for many. This investment underlines our strong belief in working with India’s innovative start-ups towards the shared goal of building a truly inclusive digital economy that will benefit everyone,” added Sengupta.

Glance delivers AI-driven personalised content in multiple languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Bahasa on the lock screen of Android smartphones.

With more than 115 million daily active users, who spend 25 minutes per day, Glance is one of the largest digital consumer platforms in the world. It is now among the top 10 social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Glance also owns the fast-growing video-sharing social media platform Roposo. It is India’s leading short-form video platform, with more than 33 million monthly active users spending 20 minutes daily consuming content across multiple genres in more than 10 languages. The Roposo application has been downloaded more than 100 million times on the Google Play Store.

“Glance is reimagining the future of digital consumption on smartphones,” said Naveen Tewari, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Glance and InMobi Group, adding, “We are absolutely thrilled to have Google as a strategic investor in Glance and Roposo. With two of the largest digital content platforms in the country, we have taken the lead in making the digital economy accessible for the next billion users in India and globally.”

Glance delivers trending content across entertainment, sports, fashion, news, and other content categories in a rich, visual format that is easy to consume with just a tap on the lock screen. It leverages its strategic partnership with the world’s leading Android smartphone brands to deliver this native user experience to consumers.

“Glance is a powerful innovation to democratise content on the mobile Internet,” said Ajay Gopal Royan, managing general partner and co-founder of Mithril Capital.

“It has been fantastic working with the Glance leadership team in realising its global vision of breaking through technical and linguistic barriers to deliver frictionless and engaging experiences across cultures and languages,”added Royan.

India’s digital transformation opportunity and anticipated 850-million smartphone users by 2025 have made the country a very attractive market for big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Also, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more Indians are spending time online. These transformations are also generating huge amounts of data. 

Naveen Tewari

Experts said these firms are betting big on India, while seeking to play a significant role in the country’s digital transformation.

The investment in Glance is part of the $10 billion Google for India Digitization Fund revealed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in July this year.

One of the objectives of the fund is to enable affordable access and information for Indians in languages like Hindi, Tamil, and Punjabi. 

However, Google has already invested $4.5 billion of this fund in Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance’s digital services firm Jio Platforms.

Before that, Google’s rival Facebook had also invested $5.7 billion in Jio Pla­tforms. 

In 2017, Google had led a $12.3-million funding round in delivery company Dunzo, making it the tech giant’s first direct investment in any Indian start-up.

Interestingly, InMobi - which was backed by Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank and Kleiner Perkins (formerly Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) - competes with Google and Facebook for data-driven mobile advertising.

Tewari of InMobi said the company’s marketing Cloud business competes with Facebook and Google in the area of advertising.

“Our business-to-consumer company, which is Glance, is complementary to Google as it makes the Android experience much better,” said Tewari, adding, “When you think  about the large companies, they are competing in some areas and collaborating in other spaces.”

Glance has now raised a total funding of about $190 million, which includes $45 million raised from Mithril last year in September. In November last year, the company also acquired Roposo, a Tiger Global and Bertelsmann backed short-video platform, for an undisclosed amount. It gave Glance ownership of Roposo’s video technology, platform, and brand.

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