Besdes Android and iOS, the third most popular mobile Operating System (OS) in the world, KaiOS, has announced to have raised fresh $50 million in a Series B funding round of funding led by Cathay Innovation, with continued participation from Kai’s existing shareholders Google and TCL Holdings.
KaiOS, which has nothing to do with smartphones but powers feature phones, powers more than 100 million devices that runs on KaiOS.
In June 2018, when Google had invested $22 million in KaiOS Technologies, India’s Reliance Jio also invested $7 million in cash to pick up a 16% stake in KaiOS Technologies, the maker of KaiOS, a San Diego, California-based startup.
KaiOS claims to have shipped more than 100 million devices running on KaiOS, enabling digital transformation in over 100 countries.
With this fresh funding, KaiOS Technologies, the maker of KaiOS, plans to expand into new markets, and to invest in product portfolio research and development. It will also enable Kai to mature its ecosystem by accelerating the growth of the KaiOS developer community.
KaiOS Technologies has raised a total of about $79 million in funding over three rounds including the latest one.
Notably, KaiOS growth is being largely attributed to popularity of the competitively-priced Reliance JioPhone in India. In May 2018, a study by DeviceAtlas, reported on by Medianama, revealed that KaiOS surpassed Apple’s iOS to become second most popular mobile OS in India, behind only Android. The study reported that KaiOS had a 15% market share among mobile devices in India, second to Android with 71% market share, pushing iOS to third position with 9.6% market share.
KaiOS is a Linux-based mobile OS which is derived from B2G (Boot to Gecko), an open source community-driven successor of Firefox OS which was discontinued by Mozilla in 2015.
“Our mission is to open up new possibilities for individuals, organizations, and society by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.
“We achieve this by collaborating closely with our business partners, enabling them to transform their business models with exciting new products and offerings, especially for first-time internet users. This Series B round allows us to accelerate these efforts and increase the impact we can make in societies around the world, one phone at a time,” Codeville said.
Kai experienced strong growth in 2018 as it built a presence in new markets such as India and Africa through critical partnerships with companies including Reliance Jio, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Orange, MTN, Qualcomm, and others.
According to a recent Counterpoint study, the smart feature phone segment accounted for nearly one-quarter of all handset shipments by Q3 of last year and presents a $28 billion dollar market opportunity in the coming three years, indicating that the global demand for a sophisticated yet cost-effective smartphone alternative is on the rise.Kai aims to transition a substantial portion of the more than 1.5 billion feature phone users to smart feature phones, enabling carriers, manufacturers, developers, and advertisers to create innovative, new business models.
In 2018, global smart feature phone demand grew 252% year-on-year with India being the biggest contributor to this demand, according to the research report by Counterpoint.
Out of more than 100 million subscribers that Reliance Jio added since the Jio Phone was launched in India in late 2017, the KaiOS powered 4G smart feature phone contributes close to half of those net additions.
Jio Phone was launched in 2017 at a refundable price of ₹1,500 and Jio Phone 2 for ₹2,999 in 2018. Till July last year, Reliance had sold 25 million units of the phone.