Several significant questions have been raised about Himalaya Media, the podcast company that announced its launch with a bank account filled with $100 million from investors. Axios says it may never have had that cash as it has uncovered that one of the investment firms listed as an investor in February never actually put any money into the podcast company.
It was seven month ago that Himalaya told Podcast News Daily and the rest of the world unequivocally that it had raised $100 million from General Atlantic, SIG and Ximalaya FM, which is China’s largest spoken word audio platform. The San Francisco-based startup was launched by Yu Wang, a former CTO and co-founder of Otto Radio, which developed software to help listeners sort through thousands of podcasts.
But Axios now reports that General Atlantic, a New York-based private equity firm with a portfolio filled with tech companies, never actually put any money into Himalaya. Instead, a General Atlantic rep said they made an investment in Ximalaya FM. Despite the news that it had invested in the podcast company being reported far and wide, General Atlantic until now never acknowledged it wasn’t involved with Himalaya.
When Axios put the question to Wang, he reportedly said that the company doesn’t have $100 million to grow its business but rather commitments from investors to put that much into the company during the next three years. He also told Axios that so far they’ve raised about $10 million—or a tenth of what was announced.
What’s more, most of the money it has raised comes from Ximalaya FM, which is said to be the majority owner of Himalaya. That may bring some added expertise since Ximalaya FM has just reported it has roughly 500 million users in China, making it the top distributor of shows in that country. Axios said Wang told them that the podcast operator doesn’t need to hit any financial or timing targets in order to receive the next round of funding from Ximalaya FM. “We know that some of the initial information was false, and it's impossible to validate the $100 million figure,” said the Axios report.
A spokesperson for Himalaya did not respond to Podcast News Daily’s request for comment.
Even as questions are now raised about the business of Himalaya and its financial structure, the company operationally has continued to push forward. It had a booth at last month’s Podcast Movement conference in Orlando and was meeting with several show creators. “As a start-up with a mission of being creator-focused, it is very important to us to reach out to the creative community, engaging both with people who are already building successful careers making content they love, as well as with those who are just getting started,” Himalaya Media VP Zachary Davis said last month.
The company has said what sets Himalaya apart from the pack is being a more “creator-friendly” platform. Rather than relying exclusively on advertising, it also uses a strategy that bonuses podcasters based on the number of followers they have. And Himalaya allows fans to use an in-app tipping feature to help support podcast producers. Himalaya’s initial focus will be on ad-supported podcasts, but the company has said it will look to add paid content in the future.
Himalaya has struck content partnerships so far with the Dallas Mavericks, distributing its existing podcasts and creating new shows for the NBA franchise. It’s also working with Starburns Audio, the audio division of the TV production house Starburns Industries, and Studio71, the digital video network.