Japanese news aggregator SmartNews raises $230m at $2b valuation

Photo: SmartNews website

SmartNews, a Japanese news aggregator that turned unicorn in 2019, announced raising $230 million in its Series F funding round, bringing the company’s total capital raised to date to more than $400 million.

The latest round values SmartNews at $2 billion, the highest for a standalone news app. In 2019, the company had raised an additional $28 million in Series E funding that catapulted it to unicorn status.

The Series F funding was backed by US investors Princeville Capital, Woodline Partners, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Investment Investment, Yamauchi-No 10 Family Office in Japan, and existing investors ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital.

SmartNews was founded in 2012 as a news discovery company. It provides news to millions of users through its machine learning technology and relationships with over 3,000 global publisher partners.

It launched its curated news app in the US back in October 2014. Unlike many news aggregation apps, SmartNews sends readers to the original article on a publisher’s website.

The company said it will use the fresh capital to double its headcount in the US, particularly in Silicon Valley, New York, and San Francisco. It will also invest to further expand its product offering in the US, where most of its competitors, including Apple News, are based.

SmartNews is the leading news app in Japan for multiple years running. In the US, the company said it achieved the highest monthly user time spent among all news app and saw its monthly active users (MAU) double in 2020.

“The US market will be a touchstone for further growth as we contribute to shaping a better future for quality journalism and exceptional information delivery on a global scale,” said Ken Suzuki, the company’s CEO and co-founder.

The Wall Street Journal reported that SmartNew is considering a potential listing of its shares. The Japanese company, however, did not mention a possible IPO in the announcement.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.