French social media startup bags $65 million to fuel growth in the Aussie market

French social media startup Yubo is setting its sights on expansion in the Australian market, after securing a massive $65.2 million in Series C funding.

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Paris, the startup is striving to provide a safer online environment for young people aged between 13 and 25.

Rather than being focused on likes, shares and public interactions, it allows people to connect in small online groups, in a setting designed to reflect real-life interactions.

The product is also monetised through in-app purchases and a premium account option, rather than ads — something that sets it apart from some of the social media goliaths it’s competing against.

“Yubo is a response to a fundamental need of Generation Z: socialising and creating friendships in the digital world,” co-founder and chief Sacha Lazimi said in a statement.

A cohort of existing and new European investors co-led the round. Co-founder of VC firm Insight Partners Jerry Murdock is also joining the board of the startup.

The capital injection follows a $16.8 million round, closed in December last year. At that time, the startup reported gross revenue of about $10 million.

And, since then, it’s only been growing.

In the past 12 months, the number of people using the platform has grown from 25 million to 40 million. The number of Aussie users has doubled to reach 1.3 million.

In fact, despite its origins in Continental Europe, the majority of its users are English-speaking. Australia is currently its third-largest market, behind the US and the UK.

In September this year, Yubo opened its US headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida.

The startup has also seen a 400% increase in time spent on live-streams since the beginning of 2020 — something that can be pretty clearly attributed to the COVID-19 crisis, and more people spending time at home, and online.

Of course, Yubo’s push for global expansion comes at a time when a certain few social media giants have had their practices and business models thrust into the spotlight.

Following a series of scandals in the 2016 US election, Facebook and Twitter have faced close scrutiny on their handling of political information.

The COVID-19 crisis has also fuelled debate about the distribution of misinformation.

The Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma recently highlighted some of the issues around how social media platforms use user data.

And, platforms including Twitter and Instagram are well-known hotbeds of abuse and online bullying.

Yubo strives to be an antithesis to all of this. The startup goes to lengths to stress its focus on user safety, including age and identify verification.

Users can also switch location data off, and some of this funding is pegged for improving moderation capabilities.

“We are proud to have created a new social space for young people centred around real-time, one-to-few conversations,” Lazimi said.

“Yubo is creating a space where they can hang out and find out about the world and themselves.”

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