Pocket Aces, a digital content creator based out of Mumbai, has raised $14.7 million (Rs 100 crore) from Sequoia Capital, DSP Group, 3one4 Capital and others after striking a deal to stream its most popular show ‘The Little Things’ on Netflix.
Founded in 2013 by Ashwin Suresh, Anirudh Pandita and Aditi Shrivastava, Pocket Aces creates engaging original content for millennial audiences through multiple YouTube channels such as Dice Media, FilterCopy, Gobble and Loco.
"This investment is a recognition of our leadership in the sector and an acknowledgement of the large potential of the digital entertainment market. With massive penetration of mobile internet in India and a large consumer base hungry for local content, we believe that there has never been a better time to build a large content business here," said Anirudh Pandita, co-founder, Pocket Aces Pvt. Ltd.
In an interview with
CNBCTV18.com, the founders of the company spoke about the funding and what makes them stand out from others. Edited Excerpts from the interview: When you launched Pocket Aces in 2013, there were already a few players such as AIB and TVF which were quite successful. What made you think about unveiling your company?
When we launched in 2013, we operated with the key insight that we were at the beginning of a multi-year cycle of secular growth in the digital entertainment sector.
Two strong macro forces were driving this insight -- smartphones are getting cheaper and data prices are declining sharply. As a result, consumer behaviour was shifting rapidly moving away from a TV-first entertainment model to a mobile-first entertainment model. Some of our early competitors were proving that this demand for mobile entertainment existed, and we believed that they were tapping into a small percentage of what the market would become. Furthermore, we felt that with our data-focused DNA and obsession with consumer behaviour, we’d not only provide a different offering to the consumer but do it in a more durable, long-lasting manner.
What is your USP? Why do you think you kicked off so well?
Our USP is our emphasis on data-informed content creation, our obsession with our consumers, and our deep focus on company culture. Our data-informed content creation process helps us take informed decisions in a business that has traditionally been driven purely by gut. Digital platforms provide us with a wealth of data that we use to improve our content while our obsession with understanding audience preferences helps us find formats and themes that resonate with large audiences. Lastly, we have created a culture that cultivates various qualities that nurture innovation and make us the most attractive place to work in our industry.
Pocket Aces has raised $14.7 million from Sequoia Capital, DSP Group, 3one4 Capital and others. What does this mean to the company?
This investment is a recognition of our leadership in the sector and an acknowledgement of the large potential of the digital entertainment market. With massive penetration of mobile internet in India and a large consumer base hungry for local content, we believe that there has never been a better time to build a large content business here. We are excited to create new entertainment options for a new India!”
How is your deal with Netflix unique to an Indian startup?
The Netflix deal was meaningful, not just for us, but also for the digital ecosystem in India. We were the first digital-first entertainment company in India that released an original with Netflix and ‘Little Things’, the franchise that we are working on together, speaks to the strength of our company in finding the themes that resonate with large audiences and telling it in a relatable manner. Netflix has set new standards for storytelling across the world and it is exciting to partner with them to bring forth quintessentially Indian stories with universal themes that audiences across the world can enjoy. The partnership allows us to push content boundaries and we remain excited about being at the forefront of this movement.
How are artificial intelligence and machine learning helping your company?
We have strong engineering and data DNA in the company. The team uses data for both our socially distributed content channels as well as our interactive, esports app, Loco. We work with data to test out jokes, themes, and even actors. We also use data extensively on Loco to improve customer experience on the product and are now working on a new data-driven personalization effort on the app.
How do you look at the competition from other players such as TVF and Culture Machine?
Some of our competitors are doing good work and helping create a new ecosystem that takes on slow-moving incumbents. We believe that during this time we have laid the foundation of a durable business and differentiated from them significantly in the strategic choices we have made. We have the fastest growth among our peers and have grown our monthly viewership from about 20 million views to 0.5 billion views (a 25x increase!), with a 15x increase in monetisation. We continue to have the best renewal rate on long form shows as well as some of the highest success rates in terms of monetisation and engagement. We also differentiated ourselves by betting on interactive, immersive entertainment and emerging gaming behaviour through Loco, a choice that none of our competitors have been able to make. Lastly, our culture remains one of our strongest differentiators, which helps us have one of the lowest churn rates on team members in the industry.
Can you take us through the number of brands that you have worked with?
We have worked on multiple high-performing campaigns with over 100 advertisers of different sizes and industries. Our superior creative distribution and servicing capabilities make us the creator of choice for high quality advertisers such as PepsiCo, Flipkart, Amazon, Samsung, One Plus, Google, Kingfisher and Kotak Mahindra Bank.
Furthermore, our large content IP library is syndicated across platforms such as Ola Play and Reliance Jio, airlines such as Emirates, Jet and Cathay Pacific, cable partners such as Tata Sky, and international platforms such as China's Youku Tudou and Bytedance.
Lastly, we manage some of India’s most popular digital faces and help them grow creatively and commercially.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming series and what is it all about?
On August 11, season 2 of ‘Adulting’ goes live on Dice Media's YouTube channel. It is one of the most popular web-series of all time in India and the audience has been waiting with bated breath for season 2. The love for the show, and for the two leads -- Yashaswini and Aisha -- has been overwhelming and phenomenal (the first season garnered more than 45 million views on YouTube alone!).
While Season 1 was about two new friends navigating the first few exciting years of adulthood; season 2 will explore slightly more serious millennial issues in both the personal and professional spaces. There's something in it for everyone to instantly connect with.The ‘Adulting’ series is a sincere attempt at showing the audience how to ace the adulting game, with a friend always by your side. It portrays the reality of being a young woman in today’s urban India.