The $150B+ global news industry has been undergoing a profound transformation for well over a decade. News is more accessible and more widely consumed than ever before, but the means of delivery and the industry’s economic model are still undergoing significant disruption.
If the first wave of change was brought by the explosion of desktop Internet access, the second wave has been fuelled by the spread of smartphones and tablets, enabling entirely new ways to discover and consume news. Against this backdrop of ongoing disruption, there is a huge opportunity for products that are both loved by users and also work economically for news publishers.
That’s why we’re delighted to be co-leading a $36m investment round in SmartNews, a remarkable company that has created one of Japan’s leading mobile news apps, winning users and awards alike. The product has truly astonishing user engagement, thanks to its powerful technology that identifies and presents trending news in a manner perfectly suited to smartphone consumption.
The team has also successfully formed partnerships with major Japanese publishers, who see the value the product can provide both in terms of readership and new revenues. And importantly, having achieved huge domestic success, the team is rightly ambitious about the global potential.
Japan has been a focus for us for many years, led by Hiro Tamura in London and Shin Iwata in Tokyo. We’ve made investments in companies such as Gengo, and have also developed strong relationships with major domestic players like GungHo and Softbank, which acquired 51% of Supercell last year in a transaction valuing the company at $3B. With companies like SmartNews, it’s great to now see a new generation of entrepreneurs that have the aspiration and capability to become international leaders as well as domestic success stories.
We’re very proud to be SmartNews’ first international investor and to be co-leading this round with GREE. We look forward to working closely with the team as they scale their business at home and abroad.