Koo closure a cautionary tale for ambitious start-ups

A former employee, associated with Koo since its beginning, said things went wrong due to a prolonged funding winter.
Logo of the Koo app
Logo of the Koo app

BENGALURU: When Mayank Bidawatka and Aprameya Radhakrishna founded Koo in 2020, they were confident that the microblogging platform would become an alternative to Twitter globally. But since the beginning of this year, Koo started struggling and they were even unable to pay salaries to employees. The co-founders were hopeful that they would get funding but considering the harsh funding environment, the yellow bird on Wednesday ended up saying goodbye.

Koo’s demise can serve as a cautionary tale for ambitious Indian start-ups, Somdutta Singh, Serial Entrepreneur, founder and CEO Assiduus, told TNIE that they did have a shot at dethroning a goliath; they boasted of superior tech and a user-centric approach. But blind spots and a harsh funding climate went against their chances of survival.

A former employee, associated with Koo since its beginning, said things went wrong due to a prolonged funding winter. “I have an emotional connection with Koo but as co-founders highlighted social media is the toughest one to build,” the former employee said. Koo’s last funding round was in June 2022 and it raised $11.8 million in Series B. Its total funding stood at $66.4 million and its investors include Accel, Tiger Global Management and Kalaari Capital, among others.

A year ago, Bidawatka had told TNIE that given the changes happening at the international level in the social media landscape, “we feel there is a good opportunity for us to make Koo available to the larger English-speaking audience as well.”

At its peak, Koo saw 2.1 million daily active users and about 10 million monthly active users. Firstly, Koo underestimated the power of incumbency, said Singh. “Twitter might have ‘wild’ user-generated content, but it also has a critical mass of users and established network effects. To be honest, people go where the people are.

Focusing solely on tech edge wasn’t enough to lure users away,” she said. Secondly, Koo’s “build it and they will come” strategy proved naive. Thirdly, their funding woes highlight the double-edged sword that VC funding is all about.

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