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Gulf investors back $20m funding for ‘YouTube of the metaverse’

Metaverse Supplied
VUZ is a social app which allows users to stream virtual reality experiences in the metaverse on their devices
  • Investors include Saudi’s Vision Ventures and Dubai Future District Fund
  • VUZ social media startup has achieved one billion views so far

Los Angeles-headquartered social media startup VUZ, which describes itself as ‘the YouTube of the metaverse’ has raised $20 million from a range of Gulf-based investors and aims to use the new funding to expand into Asia.

Founded in 2017, VUZ also has offices in Dubai and Riyadh, and is a social app which allows users to stream virtual reality experiences in the metaverse on their devices.

“We describe it as ‘the YouTube of the metaverse’. You can watch immersive experiences from your phone, as if you’re actually there,” founder Khaled Zaatarah told AGBI.

“You can see the behind the scenes of, let’s say, a boxing match or it teleports you in time for different experiences around the world,” he said, adding that the app can allow users to interact with celebrities, go backstage at concerts, or on the red carpet at major events.

VUZ has now raised a total of $30 million, with its latest funding led by Saudi Arabia’s Vision Ventures VC Fund and Colorado-based Caruso Ventures Strategic investors included e& capital – the investment arm of e& (formerly known as Etisalat Group), DFDF (Dubai Future District Fund), Riyadh-based Saudi Research and Media Group, and Bulgaria-based WIN (Webit Investment Network).

The company has reached one billion views in six years and is aiming to achieve three billion by the end of 2023. It plans to achieve this by expanding globally, with a focus on Asia.

Person, Human, Clothing
VUZ founder Khaled Zaatarah

“One of our aims is to be a global social platform. We have an office in Los Angeles, we want to expand that office,” Zaatarah said.

“We are live in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan. We want to launch now in India, Korea and some of other Asian markets.”

With the new backers and funding, VUZ said it is aiming for 10 percent month-on-month growth going forward.

The company’s expansion strategy is to collaborate with telecom operators in the target markets, while its business model is based on three revenue streams.

“We have the subscription model, then we have the advertising model and then we have the in-app purchasing and gifting model,” Zaatarah said.

Prior to this week’s funding announcement, some of VUZ’s existing investors included the AlTouq Group, the Al Rashid family from Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi-based Shorooq Partners, Careem co-founder Magnus Olsson, Dubai-based DTEC Ventures, Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud’s KBW Ventures, and California-based 500Startups.