A portable cassette player with a built-in radio may have been enough in the 1990s, but the way we consume audio has drastically evolved over the years. Now, a plethora of podcasts and music-streaming apps are constantly at our fingertips, and VCs have played an instrumental role in that evolution.

The term "audiotech" not only describes audio-streaming service providers like SoundCloud and TuneIn, but related software and hardware—including headphones, transmitters, and home and car sound systems.

In 2008, just $66.5 million worth of venture capital was invested in the global audiotech industry across 12 deals, according to the PitchBook Platform. Those numbers gradually increased in the next several years, with VC investment totaling nearly $600 million by 2015. There was a spike in 2018 as capital invested crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time, though more than half of that figure can be attributed to Chinese audio-streaming provider Ximalaya FM, which raised a reported $580 million in August 2018 and is the most valuable VC-backed audiotech company in the world, per PitchBook data. The Shanghai-based business is backed by investors including General Atlantic, Tencent and Kleiner Perkins.

Several high-profile investors, many of which are based in California, have been fairly active in the global audiotech sector since the beginning of 2008. Kleiner Perkins boasts the largest deal count, with 14 completed VC transactions in audiotech companies, followed closely by GV and True Ventures with 12 investments each, again per PitchBook data. Click on each of the top investors in the list below to find out more:


Kleiner Perkins was one of the earlier investors in music-streaming colossus Spotify, which went public through a direct listing in 2018. The Swedish business acquired podcast startups Gimlet Media and Anchor earlier this year, and its co-founder and CEO, Daniel Ek, reportedly announced plans to spend as much as $500 million on the podcasting industry in 2019. Kleiner Perkins has also invested in high-profile audiotech businesses including Germany-based SoundCloud and Shazam, the creator of a music recognition app based in London.

GV, which is tied with True Ventures as the second most active investor in audiotech startups, backed London-based Kobalt in 2015. Founded in 2000, the business operates a platform that helps musicians publish and manage their copyrights, claiming to represent an average of more than 40% of the top 100 songs and albums in the US and UK. Its clients include artists such as Maroon 5, Bob Dylan and Gwen Stefani.

The VC interest has continued in 2019. San Francisco-based Dipsea, a provider of erotic audio stories geared toward women, raised $5.5 million in seed funding led by Bedrock Capital and Thrive Capital in February. And Luminary Media, a subscription-based podcast network that hosts titles from Lena Dunham, Trevor Noah and several other high-profile podcasters, reportedly raised around $60 million in March. Luminary was founded in 2018 by Matt Sacks, a former principal at NEA, who indicated that he wants the company "to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming."

Featured image via Talaj/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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