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Social audio platform Walkie-talkie raises $3.25M to expand its global reach

Walkie-talkie, a social audio platform developed by Picslo Corp, has raised a $3.25 million seed round led by Heroic Ventures. The round included participation from TI Platform Ventures, LDVP, Partech, Diaspora Ventures, Breega and Kima Ventures. The Clubhouse-like app launched two years ago and currently has 1.2 million active users.

Picslo Corp CEO Stephane Giraudie previously founded VoIP web conferencing software Voxeet, which was later acquired by Dolby and became the basis for Dolby.io. Giraudie told TechCrunch that Walkie-talkie was created as a side project by two former Voxeet engineers, Corentin Larroque and Valentin Martin. Giraudie joined the team after Larroque and Martin put Walkie-talkie on the market and saw organic growth in several countries.

"We've been building a lot of communication apps in the past, so I think that was definitely our expertise. But we were also seeing the rise of the podcast and Clubhouse was not around at the time. Audio was coming back into fashion, especially with Gen Z and with the movement around anti-social networking. With Instagram, it's about being picture-perfect because it's about your images and appearance. With Walkie-talkie, you have the element of being anonymous and being yourself without any judgment," Giraudie said.

Walkie-talkie hosts audio rooms called "frequencies," which can either be public or private. Private frequencies can be used to have secure conversations with friends, whereas public frequencies host conversations about different topics with users around the world. The company has recently released a scanning functionality that's akin to how the radio works, as users will be able to press a button to scan through different live audio rooms and find one that best matches their interests.

When asked how Walkie-talkie compares to Clubhouse, Giraudie said that Clubhouse is aimed at an older audience and is more curated, while Walkie-talkie is focused on targeting its app toward younger adults and has a less structured format. He noted that many Walkie-talkie users found the app organically through TikTok videos that showcased the service and created a bit of buzz around it.

Giraudie said the latest investment round is going to help the company expand its global reach and also build new features that will enable new discovery, monetization and analytics for audio influencers. The company also plans to scale product, engineering and operations functions. He also stated that Walkie-talkie is going to leverage new technology that it developed with Dolby to help users discover new creators on the app. The company also wants to facilitate a way for creators to communicate and interact with their followers on Walkie-talkie.

"We have different types of programs that we're going to put in place with influencers. We're also going to make sure that we're building new experiences and augmenting the current use cases that we're seeing on the app," Giraudie said.

The company's seed round comes as social audio apps and features have gained popularity amid the pandemic. The rise of Clubhouse led social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to launch their own live audio room features to compete for market share. However, as restrictions have lifted in many countries and in-person events have returned, companies that offer live audio rooms are looking to retain users by launching new features and making conversations more accessible.

Twitter recently rolled out the ability for users to share direct links to their Spaces audio rooms to let others tune into a live audio session via the web without being logged into the platform. On the other hand, Clubhouse expanded its offerings to allow for asynchronous listening, including support for clips, replays and audio exports.

As for Walkie-talkie, Giraudie sees the platform as a different sort of social audio app that will grow into a larger network over time.

"We are seeing the beginning of a very interesting social network because Walkie-talkie is more than a communication tool. People are making new friends, and the more friends they make, the more time they're spending on the app, so we're going to make sure that they have a positive experience," he said.