Mobile messaging app Tango announced a $280 million funding round, which includes a $215 million investment from fast-growing Chinese e-commerce player Alibaba.
Tango offers the standard set of OTT features – free video and voice calls and text across 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi – although in a statement it also said that it has “evolved into a next-generation mobile messaging app that blends communication, social networking and content into a single platform”.
Compared with its rivals, Tango is not big – it has 200 million registered users and 70 million active on a monthly basis. It is available in 14 languages and has members in more than 224 countries, across device platforms.
Late last year, Alibaba announced its own OTT messaging app for its home market, called Laiwang. It signed up 10 million users in the first two months, showing a strong start – but meaning it is also some way behind Tencent’s Weixin.
The Next Web said Tango’s user base is biggest in the US, followed by Western Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, meaning there is little in the way of overlap with Laiwang.
Indeed, there has been little talk of how Alibaba may look to leverage its strategic investment in Tango, aside from Uri Raz, founder and CEO of the app provider, stating that the Alibaba stake is “testament to our strategy and a clear indication of the future potential of how content and services will be delivered to consumers.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the deal values Tango at around $1 billion – more akin to the price offered by Rakuten for Viber than Facebook’s $19 billion offer for WhatsApp.
Alibaba has been investing heavily in the mobile space, for example with the company looking to bolster its share in mapping company AutoNavi. It has also invested in the Sina Weibo microblogging service.
Eric Setton, CTO and co-founder of Tango, said the new cash will “enable us to continue to innovate, hire the best talent, aggressively expand our content partnerships, and build a world-class platform as we go after what is truly a big opportunity”.
In the current funding round, $65 million comes from some of Tango’s prior investors. Backers to date have included Access Industries, DFJ, Qualcomm Ventures, Toms Capital and Translink Capital, as well as former Yahoo head Jerry Yang.
Including the current round, it has raised $367 million in venture funding.