Apps

VUZ raises $20 million to scale its immersive social app

Comment

Image Credits: VUZ

VUZ, a social app that allows users to stream and experience immersive realism in extended reality (XR) and metaverse digital experiences, has raised $20 million in Series B investment.

Investors in the round include Caruso Ventures, Vision VC Fund, e& capital (investment pillar of e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group), DFDF (Dubai Future District Fund), WIN (Webit Investment Network), SRMG, Elbert Capital, Yasta Partners, Faith Capital and Panthera Capital. Seven existing investors participated as well.

The Dubai-based VUZ says that this round, which has seen it onboard a mix of U.S.- and EMEA-based investors, will be pivotal to its international expansion.

Founder and chief executive officer Khaled Zaatarah launched VUZ, formerly 360VUZ, as a platform to bridge the gap between physical and virtual worlds by offering premium immersive content to a global audience. According to Zaatarah, VUZ’s vision is to connect people by providing “authentic, immersive experiences while removing the constraints of travel, time, and access.” The platform offers more than 20,000 hours of content covering entertainment, creators, sports and XR, VR and AR experiences virtually anywhere in the world.

Users can access and engage different content — in addition to those mentioned above, live events, concerts, celebrity interviews and masterclasses, through its 360-degree live streams — by downloading VUZ’s iOS and Android apps. About 70% of its content is free and VUZ monetizes by showing ads to users in this category; on the other hand, users must pay between $4-8 for its exclusive content. The company is planning to allow users access content via different media: Meta/Oculus headsets, Qualcomm, immersive avatars and a web platform, Zaatarah said to TechCrunch.

The web3 platform claims to have reached over 1 billion screen views from more than 10 million users since its launch. Over 44% of these views come from the Middle East, 32% from the U.S. and 24% from Egypt. VUZ said it aims to reach 3 billion views in 2023 and double its user base 2x yearly. Creators’ immersive content collaborations have also been a core driver for VUZ content, where its top creators get over 100 million views globally.

The funds will be used to fuel these plans, including improving its 10% month-on-month recurring revenue growth, investing in content, hiring additional senior hires, new social features, launching web3 products and NFT projects and scaling with asset-light operations into eight new international markets. The investment will also see VUZ scale its Los Angeles office and scale with creators and content in the U.S., Asia and Europe.

“Our plans for the future are 10 times stronger than what we have been building for the past six years,” added the chief executive. “We have built the base and are now ready for sustainable scalability and growth at a scale-up stage,” Zaatarah adds.

Telecoms are betting on immersive media and see it as one of the most robust use cases for 5G and the future of video streaming. Zaatarah said partnership and integration with 45 telecom operators is the backbone behind the company’s global expansion. Even Dan Caruso, the managing director of Caruso Ventures, said his firm invested in the company because it is uniquely positioned to build a global platform and partner with top telecom operators globally. One such partner is the newly rebranded UAE-based telecom operator, e&; its VC arm, e& capital, launched a $250 million fund this week.

VUZ, which has raised over $30 million since inception, is one of e& capital’s maiden investments in the MENA region. The immersive media platform said it will leverage the telecom operators’ infrastructure to expand into countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Speaking on the investment, Kushal Shah, the head of VC at e& capital, said VUZ is in line with his firm’s commitment “to collaborate with visionary tech businesses that we believe will contribute to building a better and brighter digital future. We will continue to invest in the company’s success, partnering with them to help them achieve growth and enable meaningful progress that moves this digital world forward.” He told TechCrunch that his firm plans to make 20 investments across Series A and B-stage startups in the MENA region in the next four years.

More TechCrunch

Another fintech startup, and its customers, has been gravely impacted by the implosion of banking-as-a-service startup Synapse. Copper Banking, a digital banking service aimed at teens, notified its customers on…

Teen fintech Copper had to emergency discontinue its banking, debit products

3D tools behemoth Autodesk has acquired Wonder Dynamics, a startup that let creators quickly and easily make complex characters and visual effects using AI-powered image analysis. The two companies have…

Autodesk acquires AI-powered VFX startup Wonder Dynamics

Farcaster, a blockchain-based social protocol founded by two Coinbase alumni, announced on Tuesday that it closed a $150 million fundraise. Led by Paradigm, the platform also raised money from a16z…

Farcaster, a crypto-based social network, raised $150M with just 80K daily users

Microsoft announced on Tuesday during its annual Build conference that it’s bringing “Windows Volumetric Apps” to Meta Quest headsets. The partnership will allow Microsoft to bring Windows 365 and local…

Microsoft’s new ‘Volumetric Apps’ for Quest headsets extend Windows apps into the 3D space

The spam reached Bluesky by first crossing over two other decentralized networks: Mastodon and Nostr.

The ‘vote Trump’ spam that hit Bluesky in May came from decentralized rival Nostr

Welcome to TechCrunch Fintech! This week, we’re looking at the continued fallout from Synapse’s bankruptcy, how Layer wants to disrupt SMB accounting, and much more! To get a roundup of…

There’s a real appetite for a fintech alternative to QuickBooks

The company is hoping to produce electricity at $13 per megawatt hour, which would be more than 50% cheaper than traditional onshore wind.

Bill Gates-backed wind startup AirLoom is raising $12M, filings reveal

Generative AI makes stuff up. It can be biased. Sometimes it spits out toxic text. So can it be “safe”? Rick Caccia, the CEO of WitnessAI, believes it can. “Securing…

WitnessAI is building guardrails for generative AI models

It’s not often that you hear about a seed round above $10 million. H, a startup based in Paris and previously known as Holistic AI, has announced a $220 million…

French AI startup H raises $220M seed round

Hey there, Series A to B startups with $35 million or less in funding — we’ve got an exciting opportunity that’s tailor-made for your growth journey! If you’re looking to…

Boost your startup’s growth with a ScaleUp package at TC Disrupt 2024

TikTok is pulling out all the stops to prevent its impending ban in the United States. Aside from initiating legal action against the U.S. government, that means shaping up its…

As a US ban looms, TikTok announces a $1M program for socially driven creators

Microsoft wants to put its Copilot everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before Microsoft renames its annual Build developer conference to Microsoft Copilot. Hopefully, some of those upcoming events…

Microsoft’s Power Automate no-code platform adds AI flows

Build is Microsoft’s largest developer conference and of course, it’s all about AI this year. So it’s no surprise that GitHub’s Copilot, GitHub’s “AI pair programming tool,” is taking center…

GitHub Copilot gets extensions

Microsoft wants to make its brand of generative AI more useful for teams — specifically teams across corporations and large enterprise organizations. This morning at its annual Build dev conference,…

Microsoft intros a Copilot for teams

Microsoft’s big focus at this year’s Build conference is generative AI. And to that end, the tech giant announced a series of updates to its platforms for building generative AI-powered…

Microsoft upgrades its AI app-building platforms

The U.K.’s data protection watchdog has closed an almost year-long investigation of Snap’s AI chatbot, My AI — saying it’s satisfied the social media firm has addressed concerns about risks…

UK data protection watchdog ends privacy probe of Snap’s GenAI chatbot, but warns industry

U.S. cell carrier Patriot Mobile experienced a data breach that included subscribers’ personal information, including full names, email addresses, home ZIP codes and account PINs, TechCrunch has learned. Patriot Mobile,…

Conservative cell carrier Patriot Mobile hit by data breach

It’s been three years since Spotify acquired live audio startup Betty Labs, and yet the music streaming service isn’t leveraging the technology to its fullest potential — at least not…

Spotify’s ‘Listening Party’ feature falls short of expectations

Alchemist Accelerator has a new pile of AI-forward companies demoing their wares today, if you care to watch, and the program itself is making some international moves into Tokyo and…

Alchemist’s latest batch puts AI to work as accelerator expands to Tokyo, Doha

“Late Pledge” allows campaign creators to continue collecting money even after the campaign has closed.

Kickstarter now lets you pledge after a campaign closes

Stack AI’s co-founders, Antoni Rosinol and Bernardo Aceituno, were PhD students at MIT wrapping up their degrees in 2022 just as large language models were becoming more mainstream. ChatGPT would…

Stack AI wants to make it easier to build AI-fueled workflows

Pinecone, the vector database startup founded by Edo Liberty, the former head of Amazon’s AI Labs, has long been at the forefront of helping businesses augment large language models (LLMs)…

Pinecone launches its serverless vector database out of preview

Young geothermal energy wells can be like budding prodigies, each brimming with potential to outshine their peers. But like people, most decline with age. In California, for example, the amount…

Special mud helps XGS Energy get more power out of geothermal wells

Featured Article

Sonos finally made some headphones

The market play is clear from the outset: The $449 headphones are firmly targeted at an audience that would otherwise be purchasing the Bose QC Ultra or Apple AirPods Max.

7 hours ago
Sonos finally made some headphones

Adobe says the feature is up to the task, regardless of how complex of a background the object is set against.

Adobe brings Firefly AI-powered Generative Remove to Lightroom

All cars suffer when the mercury drops, but electric vehicles suffer more than most as heaters draw more power and batteries charge more slowly as the liquid electrolyte inside thickens.…

Porsche Ventures invests in battery startup South 8 to boost cold-weather EV performance

Scale AI has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors including Amazon and Meta.

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B

The new coalition, Tech Against Scams, will work together to find ways to fight back against the tools used by scammers and to better educate the public against financial scams.

Meta, Match, Coinbase and others team up to fight online fraud and crypto scams

It’s a wrap: European Union lawmakers have given the final approval to set up the bloc’s flagship, risk-based regulations for artificial intelligence.

EU Council gives final nod to set up risk-based regulations for AI

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion