Fund injection to be used for product development and global marketing efforts
Company had previously raised US$1.6 million from various investment sources
JOOT Ventures Sdn Bhd said it has secured a total of US$700,000 in funding to further develop and market its social content network, Joota.
Of the new round, US$500,000 came from Interactive E Solutions JLT of Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and US$200,000 from an individual angel investor whose identity the company did not disclose.
In a statement, Joota said the new funds will be used to finance product development of its social content network platform, as well as support its global marketing and promotional efforts.
Prior to this round of funding, Joota had raised approximately US$1.6 million in funding from various other investment sources.
“We are excited to receive this new round of funding. It allows us to support our technology team to continue to improve Joota as well as our increase efforts in marketing and promoting our universal social content network platform to Internet users around the globe," said Ashran Ghazi (pic), co-founder and chief operating officer at Joota.
Interactive E Solutions, JLT is a subsidiary of Interactive Group, an ICT provider in Pakistan with business also in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey.
Shahid Mahmud, chairman and chief executive officer of Interactive Group, said, "We are extremely excited about Joota.
“There is an information overload on the Internet and Joota enables Internet users to easily filter the content into manageable information clusters," said Interactive Group chairman and chief executive officer
"The way Joota engages online community around content is very interesting. Broadband markets offer immense appetite for social networking and content sharing.
“With Joota, we will usher in a new era of Internet usage proliferating the positive effects of content sharing amongst the people. We are equally excited about Joota’s approach to making the social network a meaningful experience,” he added.
Building a social content network
Joota is a social content network accessible via web-browsers. The platform allows users to build their community based on shared interest around content.
Upon signing up, users will be able to utilise features such a Joota bookmarklet.
The bookmarklet not only helps users collect content from the Internet but also start a conversation immediately after the content is bookmarked via a Joota card which opens up; all without having to leave the webpage from which the 'joot' originated.
The network also allows users to to share content they have collected and curated with friends on social networks and embed 'joots' on blogs and websites.
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), Ashran said that the idea for Joota was conceptualised in late 2009 when he and a few others initially met to explore ideas of what possibly could be the next big thing and how they could be part of it.
The discussions focused on the unstoppable trend of social networking and they were drawn to the fact that the Web was so rich in content. Preliminary brainstorm sessions led to the formulation of a mission to make the web more meaningful to those who use it, he said.
The final founding team comprised Arshan, along with Ahmad Fauzi Ali, Lilyana Abdul Latiff, Nur-Ruhizan Dato’ Noh and Haslinda Rasip, with Joot Ventures being incorporated in 2010.
The name Joota came about in early 2011, stemming from the word ‘juta,’ Malay for ‘millions’ to reflect the abundance of content on the Internet, Arshan said.
Work began on a prototype between mid-2011 and early 2012, and the time was also spent on testing out the early prototypes of Joota that were developed as Joota Sidebar, a plug-in.
“However, we discovered that the sidebar’s compact view was quite limiting, and, as a plug-in, it required extra steps of downloading and installing which could be cumbersome to some users.
"We decided then to transform the sidebar into a web-based platform. The transformation has also allowed us to introduce the concept of cards and decks as part of Jootaverse,” said Ashran.
Joota was first released to the public in beta in June 2012, thanks to the funding raised between 2010 and 2011.
According to Ashran, Joot Ventures developed the platform from the ground up, with the work being done by software engineers from Malaysia and Indonesia.
“However, we collaborated with patent owners in the United States in order to implement certain features that would give us a global advantage. Joota leverages on a variety of Internet technologies that enable real-time social networking and content curation,” he added.
When asked who Joota’s competitors are, Ashran pointed to Scoop.it, Clipix.com, and Chime.in. In addition, any virtual community or social media network that is interest-based, content-driven and community-oriented is considered a direct competitor.
In terms of a business model, Ashran said that while Joota can be used for free, the company is introducing Joota Premium services, which allows small and medium businesses (SMBs) to use Joota as a 'Social Content Advertising' tool.
“We enable SMBs to attach ads to content and conversations that they share with their customers and other users. This makes the engagement process with their customers more meaningful, without having to 'hard sell' their products or services -- but at the same time having their brand presence,” he said.
Ashran claimed that since the company began outreach efforts with SMBs in the last month, it has managed to secure about 100 clients, which are currently being coached to use Joota as a content marketing tool.
“Our user base is small at the moment as we are just coming out of beta and we are targeting a user base of about 300,000 users by year-end -- from both Malaysia and the United States,” he added.
Although SMBs form Joota’s core target client base, Ashran said the company was also open to working to larger corporations as well.
Moving forward, the plan for the next six to 12 months includes strengthening Joota’s infrastructure, such as improving the backend to support a growing client base.
Ashran said that the team is also working on releasing a mobile version of Joota.
“We are kicking off our marketing efforts and user acquisition efforts in the United States as well, via an appointment of a Joota country representative and sales agency which will be announced soon,” he added.
When asked what keeps himself and the Joota team motivated, Ashran said motivation was the easy part, as “we live in exciting times," especially with the explosion of the Internet and mobile.
“However it’s tough being very focused on what you do because you see so many opportunities to explore. But we have to remain focused on our goals, and balancing between exploring ideas and sticking to a game plan keeps the team motivated or buzzed,” he said.
Joot Ventures currently has a staff count of 10 and is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with an office in Portland, Oregon.
To find out more about Joota, click here.
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