VUZa 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 investments.
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 and Yasta Partners, Faith Capital, Panthera Capital. Seven existing investors also participated.
Dubai-based VUZ says this round, which will see a mix of US and EMEA investors on board, will be crucial for its international expansion.
Founder and CEO Khaled Zaatarah launched VUZ, formerly 360VUZ, as a platform to bridge the gap between physical and virtual worlds by providing premium immersive content to a global audience. The platform offers more than 20,000 hours of entertainment, creators and sports content, and XR, VR and AR experiences virtually anywhere in the world. According to Zaatarah, VUZ’s vision is to connect people by “providing authentic immersive experiences while removing the limitations of travel, time and access.”
Users can access various content through the 360-degree live streams – in addition to the aforementioned live events, concerts, celebrity interviews and masterclasses – by downloading VUZ’s iOS and Android apps. 70% of the content is free and VUZ generates revenue by showing ads to users in this category; on the other hand, users have to pay between $4-8 for the exclusive content. The company plans to give users access to content through other media: Meta/Oculus headsets, Qualcomm, immersive avatars and a web platform, Zaatarah told gotechbusiness.com.
The web3 platform claims to have reached over 1 billion screen views from over 10 million users since its launch. 44% of these views are from the Middle East, 32% from the US and 24% from Egypt. VUZ said it aims to reach 3 billion views by 2023 and double the number of users twice a year. Creators’ immersive content collaborations have also been a major driver for VUZ content, where the best creators gain over 100 million views worldwide.
The funds will be used to fuel these plans, including improving 10% monthly recurring revenue growth, investing in content, hiring additional key senior employees, new social features, launching Web3 products and NFT projects and scale up with asset-light operations in 8 new international markets. With the investment, VUZ will also scale up its Los Angeles office and grow with creators and content in the US, Asia and Europe.
“Our plans for the future are 10 times stronger than what we have built in the past 6 years,” added the CEO. “We have built the foundation and are now ready for sustainable scalability and growth in a scale-up phase,” added Zaatarah.
Telecom is betting on immersive media and sees it as one of the most robust use cases for 5G and the future of video streaming. Zaatarah said collaboration and integration with 45 telecom operators is the backbone behind the company’s global expansion. Even Dan Caruso, the general manager of Caruso Ventures, said his company has invested in the company because it is uniquely positioned to build a global platform and partner with top telecom operators worldwide. One such partner is the recently rebranded UAE-based telecom operator, e&; its VC arm, e& capital, launched a $250 million fund this week.
VUZ, which has raised more than $30 million since its inception, is one of e& Capital’s first investments in the MENA region. The immersive media platform said it will use the telecom operators’ infrastructure to expand into countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Speaking about the investment, Kushal Shah, head of venture capital at e& capital, said VUZ is in line with e& capital’s commitment “to partner with visionary tech companies that we believe will contribute to a better and brighter digital future. We will continue to invest in the success of the company and work with them to help them achieve growth and enable meaningful progress that moves this digital world forward.” He told gotechbusiness.com that his company plans to make 20 investments in Series A and B-stage start-ups in the MENA region.