Pocket Aces is making a name for itself in the world’s most prolific movie industry, scoring funding from a marquee Silicon Valley investor right after nailing a deal to stream its most popular show on Netflix.
Pocket Aces, a tiny digital studio has raised $14.7 million from Sequoia Capital, DSP Group, 3one4 Capital and others to bankroll content aimed at pushing Indian shows beyond hackneyed Bollywood formulas, like “saas-bahu” or mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law dramas, as per ET reports.
The company is one of a band of startups moving away from familiar staples to try and hook an exploding population of mobile viewers.
Pocket Aces plans to use the funds to get into gaming content, make strategic acquisitions and boost production to 30 shows a year from the current dozen.
India has become a battleground for global streaming giants from Netflix Inc. to Amazon.com Inc. and Walt Disney Co.-owned Hotstar.
They’re drawn by a market that could hit 829 million smartphone users by 2022, compared with about half a billion now, according to Cisco Systems Inc. estimates, many of them first-time Internet users consuming entertainment via their mobiles.
Netflix has raised the stakes last week, announcing one of the world’s cheapest streaming subscriptions: an under-$3 monthly mobile-only plan for India.
Two of its leading homegrown streaming rivals ALTBalaji and ZEE5 announced they were joining hands to create more than 60 original shows, share audience insights and grow subscriptions.
The Mumbai-based, Pocket Aces uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to test genres, actors and plot lines in pilots before spinning them into longer shows for streaming platforms, social media channels and its own apps.
“Our shows garner 500 million views per month and we aim to hit 1 billion monthly views by 2020,” said co-founder Aditi Shrivastava.
The business was conceived out of dorm-room conversations between co-founders Anirudh Pandita, 34, and Ashwin Suresh, 35. From engineering undergraduates at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the pair went on to work on Wall Street before starting their company in 2014.
They were joined later by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alum Shrivastava, now married to Suresh. Pocket Aces’ first show was launched in 2015.
It has several originals lined up for Amazon and Hotstar in India and recently signed a global deal to create several shows for Netflix. It’s negotiating with multiple Hollywood production companies to create content. The firm’s average employee age is 23.
Pranav Pai, managing partner at venture backer 3one4 Capital, calls the startup’s approach a “data-driven, continuous feedback loop” that helps improve stories and production.
The startup started off as a short video but went on to become a multi-episode series and is now streamed worldwide on Netflix to audiences from Turkey to Latin America.
Pocket Aces subtly delves into subjects such as homosexuality, cohabiting outside of marriage and divorce.
In a show called What the Folks, the protagonists, a young couple debate onscreen whether or not to have children.
In Adulting, about two young women traversing relationship and financial crises, the characters discuss what lines can be crossed in an office romance.
By: Abhinav Ranjan, Editorial Desk, DKODING Media