Industry News

VC Genesis Investments bets $150K on Ukrainian podcast platform

Podcast distribution and monetization platform Elision sets aim at US, global markets

Venture capital firm Genesis Investments has bet $150,000 on Ukrainian startup Elision — a podcast distribution and monetization platform that allows to merge audio and other content formats.

The “next-generation” podcast-hosting platform was founded by Viktor Pavluchynskyi in end-2019. Since then, the team of 15 has so far launched beta applications on Google Play and App Store that allow creators to upload podcasts, earn money, and build an audience. 

Listeners get access to a library of more than 30 million episodes with advertising, or subscribe to an ad-free version for $7 per month (the company has a discount for Ukrainian consumers, who pay a bit less than $4, though the US market is their main target). 

To increase the level of interaction with the content Elision’s team created RichAudio — a unique feature that allows podcast creators to accompany audio content with text, photos, links, or other visual materials. The platform currently carries 500 podcasts episodes converted to RichAudio. 

The funding will go to product development and marketing. Although initiated before the crisis, the deal went ahead and was finalized despite the challenging post-pandemic market.

According to Elena Mazhuha, a Senior Investment Analyst at Genesis Investments, the crisis hasn’t affected their assessment criteria, which are based on team and market size. 

“The fund focuses on well-balanced teams with global ambitions, that are competitive in a global market,” Elena told The Fix, highlighting that Elison checks both boxes.

“From the market perspective, podcasts are a fast-developing industry that are growing at 50% rate a year. We see a real opportunity for companies to become global market leaders,” she said, adding that all the people who currently turn on YouTube or series to play in the background are all potential future listeners. 

But in venture-capital a well-balanced team can be even more important than a strong concept, Elena explained, highlighting that even the best ideas would remain ideas unless they are implemented by strong founders. 

“We were very satisfied with their product vision. Elision has a very talented team, good taste, analytical thinking, vision, design skills which are highly important in developing mobile applications,” she explained. “In addition, they were willing to focus on the technology side, including into their product RichAudio technology, that goes beyond ordinary podcasts.” 

Viktor Pavluchynskyi, Elision founder and CEO, told MC.today: “For us, Genesis is firstly a strategic partner with great expertise in creating products. Thanks to their advice and support, we have been able to avoid more than one mistake. For example, we used a third-party service rather than developing our own payment system, which saved us about a month of development.”

Now, the Elision’s team is working on developing exclusive episodes and a full product launch in the US market. The project is oriented on Western markets with a target audience of people who are not yet listening to or recording podcasts, like Youtube and Instagram bloggers and their followers.

Genesis Investments is a new Ukrainian VC-fund, investing in Ukraine, Belarus, and Baltic countries that was launched in late-2018 with a team of 3 and now consists of 10 people.

They look for future-proofed, team-focused and market-driven projects with a focus on edu-tech, digital health, AI/ML, and mobile industries — although the relatively small size of their home markets sometimes leads them to cast a wider net.

“In our geographies, we cannot afford specialization only in a couple of industries, there might only be 10 companies [in a given field] and nothing to choose from. So we also look more broadly to software companies in the early stages of existence.” Elena said.

“Our investment focus has not changed since the crisis. Geographically we are still investing in the same region, but are looking at new trends — into companies that get more benefits than disadvantages from the current situation (e.g. companies involved in remote work, online education, health care etc.),” Elena summed up.

Regardless of the current situation, the investment analyst noted, companies and startups need to look for options. “It is time to take a risk, every problem is an opportunity,” she said. 

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