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Podcast Startup Kerning Cultures Raises $460,000, In A Seed Round Led By 500 Startups

Becoming the first venture-backed podcast network in the Middle East.

In its seed investment, Kerning Cultures KC’s seed round was led by 500 Startups, and joined by Najla Baeshen, Hatem Dowidar, Khalifa Al-Hajeri, Fawzy Abu Seif, and Yousef Janajri. "We're planning on focusing our energy these next few months on content production and marketing," Kerning Culture's Brand Marketing Director Bella Ibrahim tells Startup Scene. "We'll be growing our team, to meet the increase in content production with our upcoming shows. In regards to marketing: up until this point, we've only organically marketed ourselves to listeners, so we plan on investing in marketing to the region much more proactively."

Based between Dubai, Beirut, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, Kerning Cultures is a startup co-founded by Hebah Fisher and Razan Alzayany in late 2015, as a single podcast show telling documentarystyle, long-form stories from the Middle East. The inaugural show has earned the acclaim of The Guardian as the “This American Life of the Middle East”, and the best podcast show in the UAE by regional outlets like Gulf News and What’s On Dubai.

In 2018, Kerning Cultures secured a pre-seed investment of $50,000 through Matter, a media-focused accelerator in San Francisco. Since then, Kerning Cultures grew their team: Alex Atack joined as Managing Producer, along with Dana Ballout as Editor, and Bella Ibrahim as Brand Marketing Director.

With the seed investment, Kerning Cultures plans to expand their team even more to launch at least three new Arabic and English shows. With their upcoming lineup of bilingual shows, they’ve identified a potential listening audience of 110 million people between the age of 15 and 35; those in the region who feel unrepresented in local traditional media, and an untapped audience of Middle Eastern diaspora listeners abroad.

The Middle East has some of the highest digital adoption rates in the world for smartphone penetration, lending well to tuning into podcasts. According to Kerning Cultures’ research, Saudis today already spend more time listening to digital audio than Americans do. But currently, the catalog of audio content is very limited. The Middle East currently only has over 400 active shows, compared to over 350,000 active podcasts in the United States.

To date, Kerning Cultures is one of four podcast companies in the Middle East. The future of media is podcasts: on-demand, convenient, high-quality content that listeners tailor to their liking. And with a long history of the oral tradition and storytelling, the Middle East markets are ready to fuel a digital revival of storytelling and the next surge in podcasts.


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