KaiOS nets US$50 million in Series B funding to 'connect the next billion people'

Series B funding round led by Cathay Innovation.
KaiOS, Phones, Funding, Tech, Society, Africa, Cathay

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KaiOS' phones are about to help connect more people.

KaiOS Technologies, maker of KaiOS, the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones, has announced US$50 million in a Series B funding round led by Cathay Innovation, with continued participation from KaiOS’ existing shareholders Google and TCL Holdings. To date, more than 100 million devices running on KaiOS have been shipped, enabling digital transformation in over 100 countries. 

With this Series B, Kai plans to expand into new markets, and to invest in product portfolio research and development. It will also enable KaiOS to mature its ecosystem by accelerating the growth of the KaiOS developer community.

“Our mission is to open up new possibilities for individuals, organisations, and society by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.

“We achieve this by collaborating closely with our business partners, enabling them to transform their business models with exciting new products and offerings, especially for first-time internet users. This Series B round allows us to accelerate these efforts and increase the impact we can make in societies around the world, one phone at a time.”

KaiOS experienced strong growth in 2018 as it built a presence in new markets such as India and Africa through critical partnerships with companies including Reliance Jio, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Orange, MTN, Qualcomm, and others. According to a recent Counterpoint study, the smart feature phone segment accounted for nearly one-quarter of all handset shipments by Q3 of last year and presents a $28 billion dollar market opportunity in the coming three years, indicating that the global demand for a sophisticated yet cost-effective smartphone alternative is on the rise. KaiOS aims to transition a substantial portion of the more than 1.5 billion feature phone users to smart feature phones, enabling carriers, manufacturers, developers, and advertisers to create innovative, new business models.

“KaiOS is already the third mobile OS globally and one of the most impactful tech startups in the world. It has the potential to transform the lives of billions of people by giving them access to the internet for the first time. We are proud to join KaiOS’ fantastic investor base and to lead this round to support the company’s next phase of rapid expansion. We look forward to leveraging our global platform and ecosystem to help accelerate KaiOS’ growth in new markets,” said Denis Barrier, Co-Founder and CEO of Cathay Innovation.

The team behind KaiOS currently counts more than 260 people and continues to grow rapidly. The company has won several awards, including the Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough at MWC Asia 2018, and was named Best Emerging Tech by Digital Trends at MWC Barcelona 2018. Kai has also received indirect recognition through its integration with the JioPhone, which won Fortune’s Company Changing the World award and Nikkei’s product excellence award.

KaiOS has an optimised user interface for non-touch phones. The platform supports 3G and 4G/LTE, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. It works with chipsets from all major manufacturers including Qualcomm, UNISOC, and MediaTek. KaiOS offers a smooth user experience on devices with as low as 256MB of RAM. Through the KaiOS Developer Portal, app developers can create their own content for KaiOS and have it published in the KaiStore. Using KaiAds, content owners can monetize their apps and services on KaiOS, while brands have the opportunity to reach an entirely new segment of users with their ads.

Cathay Innovation is a global venture capital fund, created in affiliation with Cathay Capital Private Equity. It was founded around the shared conviction that supporting digital entrepreneurs by providing them with a platform bridging three key regions – North America, Europe and China – constitutes a particularly powerful value-creation strategy. As a multi-stage fund, Cathay Innovation partners with visionary entrepreneurs, committed to driving change through technology. Cathay Innovation has offices in San Francisco, Paris, Beijing and Shanghai.

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