Turnip raises $12.5 million for its mobile-first gaming community platform

Turnip, an Indian startup that is building a mobile-first gaming community platform, has raised $12.5 million in a new financing round to deepen its footprint in India and dozens of other countries and dabble with web3 as it looks to broaden its product offerings.

Greenoaks and Elevation Capital co-led the one-and-a-half-year-old startup’s Series A round. SEA Capital, Vibe Capital and scores of entrepreneurs including Andrew Chen of Andreessen Horowitz, Sujeet Kumar of Udaan, Harshil Mathur and Shashank Kumar of Razorpay, Gaurav Munjal and Roman Saini of Unacademy, Lalit Keshre, Harsh Jain and Ishan Bansal of Groww and Akshay Kothari of Notion also participated in the round.

Several platforms such as Twitch and YouTube exist for gamers to help them distribute to an infinitely large user base. “But nobody is solving the deeper engagement and monetization,” said Pooja Dubey, founder of Turnip, in an interview with TechCrunch. “We have seen these challenges being addressed in other categories, but gaming right now has a whitespace.”

Turnip is attempting to solve this by allowing gamers to build a community on its app, where they can stream live gameplay from their mobile devices, engage with their fans and monetize.

Fans watch the gameplays within the app and can interact with the person playing the game in real-time through text chats, audio and video. Gamers can continue to stream on any platform and integrate the gameplay into Turnip to engage with their top fans. They can also host esports tournaments and master classes on the app to deeply engage with the audience.

The platform, which offers a wide-range of tools and integrations, is designed to extend support to low-specced devices as well as slower internet connections, she said.

Fans can tip gamers in many ways including buying items such as badges and stickers, make one-time payment to access certain events and also set up a recurring payout. The payments are orchestrated in “a more granular and step-by-step level rather than asking upfront to pay something,” she said. (Apple and Google take their 30%, while Turnip currently pockets about 10% as commission. Dubey said based on the usage and gamer’s income, the startup may change its fee.)

Gaming has become a social experience in recent years thanks to the rise of interactive games such as Fortnite and PUBG and availability of fast data speeds that allow friends to talk to one another in real time as they go about completing missions and, typically, killing lots of virtual characters.

“From a design and development perspective, multiplayer games have lent themselves well to social features like voice chat,” said Rishi Alwani, long-time industry analyst and communications manager at SuperGaming. “Our game Silly Royale, for instance, scaled to 13 million downloads. With voice chat, we hit 3 million voice minutes in a day,” he said.

“Today’s streamers and other creators want to cultivate deep, personalized, and persistent relationships with their fans, with a richness that’s impossible to achieve on Twitch or YouTube alone. Turnip is building a platform that transforms passive viewers into an actively engaged community, delighting fans while enabling new options for creators, from subscriptions, to events, to sponsorships, and more,” said Neil Shah, partner at Greenoaks, in a statement.

Turnip has amassed more than 5 million users, 45% of whom are from outside of India. In 2021, users collectively spent more than a billion minutes on the platform, the startup said.

“We started with India, mostly because it was the home ground. But we always had in our mind that gaming is something that transcends beyond geographies. Today we have users in 58 countries,” said Dubey. (Some of the major international markets for Turnip, by user base, are Latin America, Middle East and Southeast Asia.)

The startup plans to deploy the fresh funds to deepen its footprint in Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia among other markets this year. It’s also looking to expand its team in several roles including product.

One of the products that Turnip is currently working on is a token that could allow community operators to reward their members and accept payments. The startup is also exploring use cases for NFTs on the platform, she said.

“We deeply believe in the future of mobile gaming communities that Pooja and Aditya are building,” said Mayank Khanduja, partner at Elevation Capital, in a statement. “When we met them for the first time, we saw that they had the unique combination of skill and ambition to build a product that’s truly global,” he said, adding that the venture fund signed its first term sheet with the founders within three days of meeting when there was no product in sight.

“The product puts gamers, a large proportion of digital creators today, at the centre and lets them imagine completely new experiences for their community. Turnip’s spectacular growth and global reach in the past year further cements our belief in their vision and we are thrilled to reaffirm our partnership in this latest funding round.”