Dubai-based Kerning Cultures has raised $460,000 as seed funding, becoming the first ventured backed podcast network in the Middle East, the startup announced today. The round was led by 500 Startups and joined by individual investors including Najla Baeshen, Hatem Dowidar, Khalifa Al-Hajeri, Fawzy Abu Seif, and Yousef Janajri. The podcast network had previously raised a pre-seed investment of $50,000 from Matter, a media-focused accelerator in San Francisco in 2018.
Founded in 2015 by Hebah Fisher and Razan Alzayani, Kerning Cultures is a podcast network that produces high-quality podcast shows for the Middle Eastern audience. One may think of it as Gimlet Media of the Middle East. If you’re not familiar with them, Gimlet Media is an American network of podcasts that was recently acquired by Sotify for $200 million. Kerning Cultures had started as a single podcast show telling documentary-style long-form stories from the Middle East. The show has been doing exceptionally well and has won different titles including best podcast show in UAE by different regional media outlets.
With the help of this latest investment, Kerning Cultures is set to expand its network of shows and is expected to launch at least 3 new Arabic and English shows by the end of 2019. The company has identified a potential listening audience of 110 million people between the age of 15-25 for these upcoming bilingual shows. It includes youth in the region that normally feels unrepresented in local traditional media and an untapped audience of Middle Eastern diaspora listeners abroad.
Kerning Culture currently makes money through advertisements and sponsorships of their shows but plans to launch content licensing and distribution agreements and white label production for brands in the future.