News discovery app SmartNews valued at $1.1B – TechCrunch

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A $28 million financing has made SmartNews, an AI-powered news aggregation app, a unicorn.

Japan Post Capital has led the Series E round, which brings the company’s total investment to $116 million and pushes its valuation to $1.1 billion. Existing investors in SmartNews include Development Bank of Japan, SMBC Venture Capital and Japan Co-Invest L.P.

The company, founded in Tokyo in 2012, boasts 20 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan. Growing at a rate of 500% per year, its audience checks into the app for a mix of political, sports, global and entertainment news curated for each individual reader. To make money, the company sells inline advertising, video ads and deals with publishers to sell ads against “SmartViews,” its equivalent of Google’s AMP or Facebook’s Instant Articles

SmartNews has nearly 400 U.S. publishing partners including The Associated Press and Bloomberg. It competes with the likes of Apple, which unveiled Apple News + earlier this year, a subscription news product that offers access to more than 300 magazines and newspapers for $9.99 per month.

SmartNews says it will use the infusion of capital to expand its global footprint.

“We are very pleased with our strong progress in the United States,” SmartNews co-founder and chief executive officer Ken Suzuki said in a statement. “We will continue to share our vision of informed, balanced media consumption with our current and future users in the U.S. and all over the world.”

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