Kumu Holdings Pte. Ltd., the firm that owns the technology behind Philippine live streaming app Kumu, has announced that it has raised approximately $5-M in a Series A funding round to roll out new features and scale up its operations.

The funding round comes at a time when quarantines and social distancing measures are keeping people at home at an unprecedented scale, driving increased usage of apps in the media and entertainment categories. In the past month, Kumu has rolled out new initiatives to help groups such as churches and industry associations move their events online, and organized some of the Philippines’ top celebrities to raise funds for families affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Series A was led by Openspace Ventures, one of the largest venture capital (VC) firms in Singapore known for leading the Series A round of Indonesian unicorn Go-Jek in 2015. This marks Openspace’s second portfolio company from the Philippines after it invested in fashion e-commerce platform BeautyMNL.

“As the rise of global interactive platforms such as TikTok and live streaming apps gain acceptance with the younger generation, there remains a significant gap for local content and hyper-local networks,” said Co-Founder and Partner at Openspace Ventures Hian Goh. “The Philippine [market], with 103 million citizens and a young, internet-savvy population, has found Kumu to be a compelling addition to the media landscape, and the Filipino leadership of Roland and his co-founders have created a unique network which we think will dominate the media landscape in the country in the coming years.”

Scaling up

Kumu, which recently reached three million registered users as the fastest growing social app in the country, will be using the new capital to scale up its current operations, which has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent months.

Currently, Kumu houses a selection of over 25,000 livestream broadcasts each day, commanding almost one hour of average daily usage for a mostly Gen Z and Millennial audience. The startup is also experiencing massive growth in revenue. The Kumu app was listed as the #1 top grossing social app in the Philippines Google Play Store, #10 in Canada, and has ranked among the 50 top grossing social apps in twelve other countries including the United States. Moreover, over 100 Kumu livestreamers now earn at least P20,000 each month from streaming original content, as it irons out the establishment of its own content creator school to encourage more users to build sustainable livelihoods on the platform.

“We are betting on the exponential growth of the Philippines’ digital GDP while optimizing a user experience that is razor-sharp focused on Gen Z’s and millennials’ attention spans. Gamifying authentic connections has been one of the most enjoyable developments on the app,” said Kumu co-founder Roland Ros.

In addition to scaling up operations, Kumu will also be using the freshly raised capital to roll out new features for its app. Among these features is a hybrid AI/community-driven live commerce platform, the first of its kind for a Filipino company. This will allow fans to purchase products while watching their favorite livestreamers, giving content creators more opportunities to earn from their streams.

“Our livestream e-commerce pilot generated almost 300 product purchases in a 10-minute period,” said Ros. “We’re excited to see how our Kumu Livestreamers use this platform to better engage with their followers. The more we empower our creators to drive the digital influence of e-commerce in the Philippines, the more we empower consumers, fintech players, and logistics companies to participate in the digital marketplace of our motherland.”

Since its inception, Kumu has also strengthened its partnerships with other startup trailblazers and established brands including Angkas, Shopback, GCash, Piattos, and FoodPanda. These partners have likewise enjoyed advertising opportunities with their respective tie-ups with the rising app as well as better digital visibility in Kumu’s creative and unique campaigns.

Strategic investors

Other participants in the funding round included Kickstart Ventures, the corporate VC firm of Globe Telecom also responsible for the Ayala Group’s tech investments, and ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media and entertainment company. They were also joined by Gobi Core Philippine Fund, a local partnership with Gobi Partners, an international investment firm which also manages the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund.

“Filipinos are spending more and more time online to consume content and to find and connect with like-minded people, and Kumu has created a path for Pinoys to do these things in a way that uniquely captures the Pinoy spirit of community,” said Kickstart Ventures’ VP for Investments Joan Cybil Yao. “With a focus on positivity, safety, and acceptance, Kumu enables its users, content creators, and businesses to interact with one another in authentic and engaging ways.”

ABS-CBN Corporation’s Head of Business Development Luis Paolo M. Pineda likewise expressed his elation regarding Kumu’s Series A round completion. “We at ABS-CBN have witnessed the progressive evolution of the media industry, and are impressed with the innovations that Kumu has pioneered. With this app, we envision a new era for our shows, game shows, and ABS-CBN talents, wherein fresh ideas and live interaction can serve our audience best.”

Pineda further expressed his optimism on how Kumu can help push a new generation of content creators who can monetize their works and establish direct relationships with their audiences. “Working with Roland, Rexy and the entire Kumu team has been very exciting and we believe it will continue to even be more exciting in the future.”

Meanwhile, Gokongwei family-owned Summit Media and Philippine-based VC Foxmont Capital Partners followed on from a previous $1.2-M seed round of funding. Summit president and CEO Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng shared bright prospects with her company’s partnership with Kumu which has been established since 2018. “As a media company, it is our purpose to be on the pulse of what technologies will revolutionise our landscape. Our investments from print to digital and now mobile apps, gives us an opportunity for our brands to deliver unique content through live-streaming, as well as discover new content creators beginning their careers,” she said while hinting at more potential opportunities for Summit in turn. “With Kumu, we foresee a new way for brands to also interact with our platforms in a dynamic, conversational environment.”