#Asia Rappler locks in funding from Omidyar Network



Philippine online news site Rappler announced today it raised an undisclosed amount of money from Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam.

The fund invests in “entrepreneurs who share our commitment to advancing social good at the pace and scale the world needs today.”

“Rappler is breaking new ground in covering news and developing a reader engagement model that is pioneering and meaningful,” CV Madhukar, Omidyar Network investment partner, says in a statement. “We are excited to be investing in it.”

Created in 2012, Rappler is an all-digital news organization that uses technology and crowdsourcing to disrupt traditional news sites.

It has a patented mood meter, which tracks the emotions elicited by its stories, and a mapping tool called Reach that shows how stories move through the community.

Rappler’s civic engagement arm Move.ph has a collaborative platform for disaster risk reduction and management called Agos.

Yet Rappler’s core is still its investigative and video reports delivered by a team of journalists, led by Maria Ressa, Glenda Gloria, Chay Hofilena, and Beth Frondoso.

Maria spent 18 years with CNN, first as Manila bureau chief then another decade as Jakarta bureau chief. She also headed the news and current affairs division of the Philippines’ largest media conglomerate ABS-CBN for six years.

Glenda and Chay created investigative news magazine Newsbreak, while Beth used to head newscast production for ABS-CBN.

“Omidyar Network believes that a vibrant and independent news media sector is very central to a well-governed democracy,” says Madhukar. “Rappler is a great combination of entrepreneurship and journalism, with someone like Maria Ressa bringing all her journalistic experience to build one of the most promising digital-only news media entities we have seen in the Southeast Asia region.”

“We are thrilled to have Omidyar Network as an investor, given its commitment to advancing social good through the use of technology,” says Manny Ayala, chairman of Rappler’s board. “The Omidyar Network’s focus on governance and citizen engagement is a particularly strong fit with Rappler. We are confident that such experienced partners will help us in our quest to create an ‘inclusive media’ platform that blends professional journalism, technology, and the wisdom of the crowd.”

Rappler claims to be the largest independent news group in Southeast Asia, after recently expanding to Indonesia, the region’s biggest economy.

While its Indonesian operations have just started, Rappler has grown to become among the top 10 new sites in the Philippines based on Alexa and SimilarWeb rankings.

A growing footprint

Rappler raised money from Omidyar Network by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts, or PDRs. PDRs are financial instruments that foreign investors can buy into, allowing media and other Filipino firms that must keep foreign ownership at 40 percent, to raise funds globally. This investment completes Rappler’s financing round that’s equivalent to a series A for other startups.

Rappler says it will use the fresh capital to enter other markets in Southeast Asia, and evolve data tool Reach. The money will also go to building out new initiatives like blogging platform X, election app PHVote, and the Rappler Store.

The funding follows an investment made by North Base Media in Rappler last May.

NBM is a fund for independent journalism founded by three prominent journalists: Marcus Brauchli, who headed the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post newsrooms; Sasa Vucinic, founder and former head of the Soros-backed Media Development Investment Fund; and Stuart Karle, former Reuters COO.

(Disclosure: The author is a former business editor of Rappler.)

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