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Omidyar Network invests in Series A round of news portal The Ken
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The Ken, a subscription-based online news platform, said on Wednesday that it had raised $1.5 million (around Rs 10 crore) in a Series A funding round led by impact investor Omidyar Network.

The company said that it will use the fresh capital for fresh hiring and boosting growth.

The development comes months after the Bengaluru-based news startup raised around $228,000 (Rs 1.48 crore) from a group of individual investors in its second round of angel funding.

The Ken was founded in 2016 by Rohin Dharmakumar, entrepreneur Sumanth Raghavendra and senior journalists Seema Singh and Ashish K Mishra,

Run by Kenrise Media Pvt. Ltd, the company had raised $400,000 (Rs 2.68 crore) in February last year from a clutch of investors including digital wallet Paytm’s chief executive officer Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

"When we launched in October 2016, not many believed we would last beyond a year,” said The Ken’s chief executive Dharmakumar. “The ‘conventional wisdom’ held that Indian readers would never pay premium prices to read any kind of journalism.”

The firm claims to have become cash-flow profitable in April.

"Instead of continuing to play it slow and steady, we see the possibility to grow faster while continuing to keep long-term sustainability in mind," Dharmakumar added.

The Ken offers reportage across technology, startups, business, science and healthcare. It competes with a few products of The VCCircle Network.

The parent of VCCircle Network, whose businesses include subscription data products, events, training programmes and a subscription-led news website, was acquired by News Corp in March 2015.

The Ken has a long list of angel investors, most of whom are from the technology industry.

These include entrepreneurs such as TaxiForSure co-founder Aprameya Radhakrishna; Deepak Natraj, managing director of Aarin Capital; Girish Mathrubootham, founder and CEO of Freshdesk; Pallav Nadhani, co-founder and CEO of FusionCharts; Pavan Ongole, former director of Japan’s SoftBank; and Sandeep Mathur, managing director, Graticule Asset Management.

Shan Krishnasamy, co-founder and chief technology officer of Freshdesk; Shanmugam Nagarajan, co-founder and chief product officer, [24]7; and V Balakrishnan, chairman of Exfinity Ventures and former chief financial officer and board member at Infosys, have also previously invested in The Ken.

Other players in the space

A couple of months ago, NewsDog, an Indian language news app founded by Chinese entrepreneurs, had raised $50 million (Rs 340 crore) in a Series C round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings.

There were reports that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba may be in talks to pick up a 10-12% stake in Ver Se’ Innovation Pvt. Ltd, which runs news aggregator Dailyhunt, at a valuation of $500 million.

Last month, Pixr8 Media LLP, which runs business news portal Pixr8 News, raised Rs 25 lakh ($37,000) in seed funding from an unnamed angel investor.

In February this year, Kochi-based Quadzeta Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which operates inFact, a mobile app which aggregates news and infotainment content, raised an undisclosed amount in angel funding from Joel George, a Saudi Arabia-based angel investor.

Last December, news curation app Inshorts had raised $5 million (Rs 32.2 crore) from existing investor Tiger Global in a bridge round of funding.

Omidyar Network

The Silicon Valley-headquartered impact investment firm was established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

After a relatively dormant 2017, Omidyar Network has made the most new bets among its peers in the first six months of 2018. Eight out of the 10 deals it has struck have been new investments.

In May, digital insurance platform Toffee had raised $1.5 million (around Rs 10 crore) in seed funding led by venture capital firm Kalaari Capital, Omidyar Network and Accion Venture Lab.

Omidyar had earlier led a Series B round in travel firm RailYatri along with existing investors, Infosys Ltd co-founder Nandan Nilekani, early-stage venture capital firm Blume Ventures, and Helion Venture Partners.

In April, Omidyar led a seed-stage investment in Chennai-based fintech company Kaleidofin.

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