Homegrown gaming and esports streaming platform Rooter recently raised $25 million (Rs 185 crore) in a Series A funding round led by Lightbox, March Gaming and Duane Park Ventures . 9Unicorns, ADvantage, Capital-A and Goal Ventures also participated in the round along with existing investors including IeAD Sports & Health Tech Partners.
Founded by Piyush Kumar and Dipesh Agarwal, Rooter has become a top player in the Indian gaming category with 8.5 million monthly active users and over 30 million downloads. Rooter Founder and CEO Piyush Kumar spoke to exchange4media about the platform’s growth plans in 2022.
What drew investors like Lightbox, March Gaming, and Duane Park Ventures to Rooter?
We raised Series A funding in almost 4-5 months, but most of the big Lightbox and March Gaming investors almost got there within 50-60 days since they started talking to us. It was a 50-60 day effort, and we raised $25 million (Rs 185 crore) in the Series A round. this is their first gaming investment. It is very encouraging that they have decided to support us. For March Gaming, part of US-based March Capital, this is their first investment in India. The reason all these investors decided to invest in Rooter is the opportunity they see in games. We’ve all seen how games have become mainstream. If you look around, everyone is playing one or the other game on their mobile phones.
The game market has grown from 300 million players to almost 500 million players and is expected to reach 700 million players in 2 to 3 years. Gaming is a great way to build communities. In addition, gambling is a highly monetizable market. It is an industry that has created income for every player. Rooter is also very positive about the revenue we make and what we can get out of it. We see a huge opportunity in the game streaming market which is a combination of two major trends in India which are games and content. The game also offers huge opportunities around emerging technologies such as Metaverse, Web 3.0 and NFT.
How will you use the funds?
We are in a phase of very strong growth. We are looking to add a lot of users to Rooter. We are looking to increase downloads. We are looking to add a lot of esports games. We already support many game streamers and we want to create the next 500,000 game streamers. This will help us create a much larger labor market. We will also invest in technology to make our products work better. We’re focusing on revenue this year, like business opportunities and everything games have to offer.
How has the Rooter journey been and what are your plans for scaling?
We started in 2016 when Rooter was a sports social platform that focused on sports content. In April 2020, we moved into game streaming and over the past 20 months we have evolved massively by building a community of game streamers, creating unique technology in India. We are the only app that allows people to create and consume content. We started monetizing very early in our journey. We are a very product- and technology-driven company, which makes us very different. We also understand the power of community, so we focus on building communities, building game streamers, and building esports teams. We also focus on monetization opportunities, so we are building a huge commerce store where all games need.
What is your monetization strategy and how do you plan to help players monetize their content?
Since we turned to esports, our revenues have increased 8 times compared to what they were during our sports days. We are already at 2.4 million ARR in revenue, and we want to increase it to 12-15 million ARR in 2022. We make money through advertising and performance marketing. All brands seek to target gamers, and we are the largest platform for brands to target gamers. The second is performance marketing where we work with the top apps in the country to help them get gamer downloads. All 25-50 apps in the country work with us.
Next, we host multiple esports tournaments and have multiple brand-sponsored IP addresses. We also have a shopping store called Rooter Shop where people can buy Rooter Diamonds, and we are also launching our game currency and accessories. We have different types of B2B and B2C opportunities.
What is your strategy to strengthen the platform?
We are the best technology platform in the market that allows users to consume and create content from the same application. It’s a great proposition because we’ve created a unified application for creation and consumption. In terms of downloads, we are the most downloaded sports app in the country. We get 2-2.5 million more downloads every month. We have been the number 1 app in the sports category on Google Play since October 2020. We want to continue to attract gamers and game streamers to consume, create and monetize content.
Who owns the IP of the content created on Rooter?
It works just like social platforms work. The content belongs to the user. We host this content and help them increase its reach. Every stream that creates content on Rooter is paid based on its reach and performance. About 4.5-5% of users who create content on Rooter are paid, and we intend to increase this percentage to 10%. They earn revenue from the money we earn and also from lots of freebies, which is a big trend in gaming. It’s a streaming content consumer market of nearly 150-200 million games. It’s a much bigger part of our gaming market and it’s only going to grow.
What is the incentive for a player to join a platform like Rooter?
The biggest advantage of an Indian game streamer consumer is that they are part of an Indian platform that is focused on growing their base and generating revenue. They are growing much faster than a platform like YouTube or Facebook. Our platform gives upcoming players the opportunity to grow much faster. We have a very strong community team that works with them day in and day out. Many female streamers also joined.
Where do your streamers and gaming users come from?
How do you plan to improve the product in 2022?
We plan to invest in data science to share a lot of personalization for the type of content people create and the type of content people consume. We will focus more on our trading store where we can enable many people to do game trading, such as reselling game accessories and coupons. Since day one, our goal has been to make game streaming as easy as uploading a photo to Instagram. That’s why Rooter has been a big hit and that’s why Rooter has attracted big investors.
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