Report: Sources Say ADIA, Capital of Abu Dhabi, Considering Investment in Pocket FM of India

TechCrunch reported about Lightspeed Venture Partners engaging to invest in Pocket FM last year. ADIA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, whereas Pocket FM said it refrains from commenting on market speculations. Pocket FM operates on a freemium model, leveraging long-form episodic storytelling to give users the choice to pay only for content they prefer rather than the entire library. The startup announced last month that it will invest $40 million to grow its online reading platform Pocket Novel. More than 90,000 writers had signed up to the app in less than a month, Pocket FM co-founder Rohan Nayak wrote on LinkedIn this week.

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund ADIA is currently in discussions to support Pocket FM in a substantial new round of funding, according to two sources familiar with the matter who spoke to TechCrunch. This comes as the Indian audio-storytelling platform continues to expand its presence in the United States.

The talks for the new funding round have been ongoing for over a month and follow Pocket FM’s recent raise of around $100 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners, the sources revealed. They requested anonymity, as the details have not yet been made public.

TechCrunch previously reported on Lightspeed Venture Partners’ interest in investing in Pocket FM last year. However, news of the startup’s discussions with ADIA and the recent funding round closing has not been previously reported.

The funding talks come on the heels of rapid revenue growth for Pocket FM, which offers serialized fiction and non-fiction content across various genres such as romance, self-help, and motivation. TechCrunch reported that the startup’s annualized revenue runrate surpassed $160 million at the end of last year, a significant increase of six to seven times compared to the previous year.

ADIA did not respond to requests for comment, while Pocket FM stated that it does not comment on market speculation.

Pocket FM, whose backers include Tencent, Tanglin, and Times Internet, publicly set a goal of reaching an annual revenue runrate of $100 million by the end of 2023.

Last year, Indian startups saw a decline in large-scale funding rounds as major crossover funds, including Tiger Global and SoftBank, reduced their investments in India and other markets. At the same time, many well-known India-focused funds shifted their focus to supporting early-stage startups, as reported by Bain earlier this week.

However, several sovereign funds, including ADIA, Temasek, GIC, and Qatar Investment Authority, ramped up their investments last year by cutting larger checks for late-stage startups such as PhonePe, Lenskart, and Pharmeasy.

Pocket FM’s expansion into the U.S. and its unique pay-as-you-go model have been particularly successful. The platform operates on a freemium model, offering long-form episodic storytelling and allowing users to pay only for the content they choose rather than the entire library.

This approach has led to offering free access to episodes every 24 hours, with an additional fee for more content. Since the beginning of 2022, the platform has employed a micro-transaction model, enabling users to purchase coins in their local currency to unlock episodes beyond the free quota. On average, users spend over 110 minutes per day on the platform, as previously reported by TechCrunch.

Last month, the startup announced a $40 million investment to expand its online reading platform, called Pocket Novel. In less than a month, over 90,000 writers have already signed up for the app, as shared by Pocket FM co-founder Rohan Nayak on LinkedIn this week.

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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