In 2015, Wang Xiaoyu quit her job at Google and sold her house, then she used the money to start her own podcast app. Even today, Xiaoyu sleeps in a mattress in her office.
“I don’t have any hobbies outside of work,” said Wang Xiaoyu in CastBox’s Beijing office. “I really want to make an impact – beyond that where I live and how much I make is not so important.”
After such a struggle, CastBox announced it has raised $16 million in a Series A funding round.
This round, which closed in June, was backed by China’s Qiming Venture Partners, IDG Capital, SIG China, GSR Ventures, and ZhenFund. Another $3.2 Million was came from a $1 million angel round back in March 2016, and a pre-series A from IDG last November.
The company also announced a new feature, the in-audio search. Using natural language processing (NLP), CastBox is rolling out a search facility within its Android and iOS app where users can search for specific topics or keywords from podcasts and other audio content.
“We’ve recognized that there’s a need for traditional radio listeners, who may not be familiar with brand name podcasts, to be able to discover new and relevant content, so we’ve made it easy for new listeners to quickly discover the most relevant content,” a CastBox spokesperson told VentureBeat.
There’s an evident growth in the number of smart devices — wrist, car, home — that are fueling this demand for audio platforms and thereby funding,” noted CastBox founder and CEO Wang. “If you consider the next generation user interfaces, with products like Google Home or Amazon Echo and even Android Auto paving the way, it will no longer be powered by your fingers; rather, it’ll be spoken audio powered by audio commands. But behind the scenes, what’s empowered companies to move into the audio space has been the tremendous progress in natural language processing to understand spoken commands, and machine learning to enable the most personalized recommendations to each user.”
“She’s got a strategy for trying new things, a good strategy for exploring new things and a passion that attracts talent,” said Jason Zhen, a partner at IDG Capital who backed the latest funding round.