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Social media startup M17 secures $26.5M Series D to expand into US and emerging markets

Business Next

M17 Entertainment Group (M17), a social media startup founded in Taiwan, announced yesterday (May 12) that it has raised a $26.5 million Series D, which will allow the company to not only grow in Taiwan and Japan but also expand into the US and emerging markets.

Vertex Growth Fund, a growth stage VC based in Singapore, is the lead investor. Stonebridge Ventures from South Korea, Innoven Capital from Singapore, Kaga Electronics from Japan, and ASE Global Group from the US also participated in the funding round.

Founded in 2017, M17 is the holding company for live streaming apps 17 Live (or Livit in English speaking markets) and Meme Live, business-to-business live commerce service HandsUP, and artist agency Unicorn Entertainment.

Since this year, dating apps Paktor and Goodnight aren't part of the M17 Group anymore, according to a Business Next report. After this structural change, the group says it aims to focus entirely on its live streaming business, which accounts for 91.4% of the overall revenue.

CEO Joseph Phua says what M17 provides is “a virtual stage for performers to explore what is possible both artistically and financially." That is, it allows them to "showcase their talent and interact directly with fans everywhere in real-time” to receive rewards.

The startup now holds 60% share in the live streaming market in Taiwan and Japan, according to a press statement. In Japan, it claims to be the largest “pure-play” video live streaming company.

Last year, M17 acquired Meme Live, a live streaming platform focusing on APAC markets, including India and Southeast Asia, to bring its market share in the Asian live streaming space to 60%.

Impressed by its growing dominance in Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong, Tam Hock Chuan, managing director of Vertex Growth, says his firm believes that M17 is well prepared for the next phase of growth with a "unique value proposition and battle-hardened management team."

With a strong presence in Asia, M17 plans to expand into the US and emerging markets, including the Middle East, to include more artists and viewers into its ecosystem.

As on-demand viewing is gaining traction, M17 turns the opportunity into a commercial success. As Jeff Chang, managing director of Vertex Growth, describes, the startup is “a beneficiary from the accelerating shift towards building a digital economy.”

For the past few months, the startup says it has seen a significant growth in the number of artists and viewers, as the coronavirus pandemic leads to an increased consumption of digital content.