Group messaging app IRL, short for in real life, on Tuesday said it raised $170 million in a funding round led by SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund 2 that valued the company at $1.17 billion.
The San Francisco-based startup’s messaging platform works like WhatsApp to create private group chats but also allows for public groups to form, said IRL CEO Abraham Shafi.
Launched in June 2019, IRL said it has over 12 million monthly active users.
The funding will be used to expand the business internationally and put in place a trust and safety team to monitor public groups. Until that team is in place, Shafi said IRL will only make verified groups publicly discoverable.
While there are many messaging apps, Shafi said apart from Chinese messaging app WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd, none offered public group chat along with private messaging.
“So the big play is, we really have the opportunity to be the WeChat for the rest of the world,” he said.
IRL could allow ads to promote events or people but this would not be a core revenue stream, he said.
(Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Cynthia Osterman) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +1-415-344-3912; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))