SoThree Snares $1M Seed Round
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Developers of Umano, the app that's revolutionizing the way you listen to articles on the go, announced today that it has raised approximately $1M in seed funding.
SoThree, the developers of Umano, the app that's revolutionizing the way you listen to articles on the go, announced today that it has raised approximately $1M in seed funding. The round was co-led by Birchmere Ventures and Digital Garage, with participation from early Facebook advisor Karl Jacob and angels including several Google employees.
The seed round represents the first funding for SoThree and will enable the company to scale Umano's development more rapidly, expanding its team of voice actors and available content.
'Umano lets me listen to the print articles I never find time to read. It's my must-have app for exercising and commuting,' said Mark Platshon, partner at Birchmere Ventures and Senior Advisor to BMW iVentures. 'I think of it as 'Pandora-for-news,' as my NPR-on-steroids. And Umano's smart personalization allows it to completely replace podcasts and drive-time radio for me.'
Ideal for the more than 125 million commuters in the U.S. (including 90 million car commuters), Umano offers a broad array of fresh, curated articles every day that are read by professional voice actors. This unique approach lets Umano sound like a real news broadcast, not a robotic, text-to-speech translator. And unlike podcasts or streaming radio apps, Umano enhances the news experience by learning what listeners like and personalizing articles with its proprietary algorithm.
'Umano takes a new spin on the way people consume content to address the reality that we have less and less time to read,' said Ian Mendiola, co-founder and CEO at SoThree. 'The app fits right into daily life, so people have the opportunity to listen to great content and get smarter while they're driving, cooking, at the gym, or doing other things.'
In addition to its funding announcement, Umano has launched a new feature, Umano Collections, that creates personalized playlists for listeners around specific topics or themes. Umano Collections will allow users to jump right into an immersive experience around the topics they're most interested in, such as fitness or politics. Umano also launched new social features including the ability to comment on articles, view the top trending articles based on current social activity (comments, shares, and likes), and see all notifications, such as when a friend likes or comments on an article, in one place. The newly launched Umano 2.5 also improves accessibility of the app on iOS to improve the experience for visually impaired users.
First launched in October 2012, Umano has quickly reached 7 million listens, and the average listening session is 20-25 minutes. Umano is a five-star rated app on iTunes and early on was featured in the New and Noteworthy section of the iTunes App Store and was a #1 staff pick on Google Play.
Umano's audio approach to content consumption is likely to grow in significance given the rising trend of smaller screens and wearable computing, such as Google Glass.
SoThree was started by ex-Google engineers Ian Mendiola, Anton Lopyrev, and Prabhdeep Gill. Umano is the company's first and flagship product, and is available for free download on iTunes and Google Play.
Designed for the busy, on-the-go lifestyle, Umano lets you listen to top-notch journalism and insightful content while driving to work, cooking dinner, or doing anything else. The app takes thoughtful content, curates it based on your preferences, and then has professional actors tell the story. Umano is developed by San Francisco-based SoThree, which has received seed funding from Digital Garage and Birchmere Ventures. For more information, please visit http://umanoapp.com, follow @umanoapp on Twitter and like Umano on facebook.com/umanoapp.
About Birchmere Ventures
Since 1996 Birchmere Ventures has partnered with entrepreneurs to help build high-growth technology companies. The firm, with offices in Palo Alto, CA and Pittsburgh, PA, has over $200 million under management and is proud to have funded innovative companies that make a positive impact while also delivering strong returns for our investors. Birchmere's companies have achieved a cumulative market valuation of $14 billion, leading to Preqin's recognition of Birchmere as being among the highest-performing venture groups in the industry for well over a decade. For more information, visit http://birchmerevc.com/.
About Digital Garage
Tokyo-based Digital Garage (OSE: 4819) focuses mainly on 3 business domains: Incubation of Internet Startups, Marketing business and Online Payment Platform business. Since its inception in 1995, the company has pioneered various domains of Internet businesses in Japan, including portals, media representation, e-commerce, mobile communication and blogging. An investor in Twitter and Path, Digital Garage has created partnerships to customize the Japanese versions of Twitter and LinkedIn. For more information, visit http://www.garage.co.jp/en/.
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