News discovery app SmartNews raised $38 million, as the Tokyo-based company said it is “poised for global expansion”.
The funds will be used to accelerate growth, hiring and business development, and to expand research and development of SmartNews’ machine learning technology.
The firm is now valued between $500 million and $600 million, a big jump from last year when its fundraising round gave it a $320 million valuation, according to TechCrunch.
Its total funding stands at $90 million.
The app was launched a year and a half ago and has since garnered more than 18 million downloads. It claims to deliver “better, smarter news” that “typical social news feeds and other news apps often miss”.
Its proprietary machine learning technology evaluates more than 10 million articles a day to uncover “the most important and interesting” articles.
There are no human editors and its algorithms are optimised for discovery and diversity in order to expose users to a wider variety of stories and topics.
It also claims that users spend more than four hours a month on the news app, “much more than on other news apps or even some popular social networks”.
SmartNews has partnered with more than 250 publishers in Japan and 150 in the US, covering more than 1,500 publications, including CNN, The Huffington Post and TechCrunch, to distribute content on the SmartNews platform.
Publishers who place their advertising on SmartNews’ distribution platform keep 100 per cent of the revenue generated and can also receive additional revenue from SmartNews Ads, only available in Japan for now, and gain real-time analytics and audience insights.
SmartNews Ads features native mobile video and app ads. It has attracted global brands such as Google, Netflix, Warner, Paramount and Danone, along with prominent Japanese brands.
SmartNews has offices in Tokyo, San Francisco and New York.
The round was led by Development Bank of Japan, followed by SMBC Venture Capital and Japan Co-Invest.
The news app industry is a competitive one. Although Facebook’s Instant Articles feature is doing well, it recently shut down its standalone news reading app Paper.