Kitsu, a startup changing the way the community experiences anime, announced today that it has raised $600,000 in a seed round between San Francisco, California-based entertainment company VIZ Media, LLC, and Manila, Philippines-based entrepreneur Bernard Chong. Kitsu will use these funds to build out its world-class content discovery platform at kitsu.io, led by Kitsu founder and CEO, Josh Fabian, who started the project under the Hummingbird name. Josh previously was Lead Designer, Groupon Stores, and Lead Designer, oBaz.
“What makes me most excited about where Kitsu is going is how easy it’s going to be to connect with other anime and manga fans,” said Josh Fabian, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kitsu. “We’ve been very proactive and thoughtful about how exactly to approach the social component of anime, and we think what we have will continue to drive that conversation moving forward.”
As part of the investment, Bernard Chong as well as Brad Woods, VIZ Media’s Chief Marketing Officer, will join the Kitsu board. VIZ Media’s Rob Pereyda, Vice President of Business Development, led the deal at the company and will serve as Senior Advisor.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Josh and the Kitsu team to bring this content to a wider audience,” said Brad Woods, Chief Marketing Officer at VIZ Media. “The features that are being rolled out with the new platform are really exciting, and we believe they will drive engagement for the anime industry as a whole.”
“Discovery is one of the great challenges in the entertainment world today,” said Bernard Chong. “With Josh, I see an incredible entrepreneur with the product chops to help drive consumption, monetization and just plain joy in the business, and to me that is exciting.”
Built atop the modern web frameworks Ruby on Rails and Ember, the Kitsu platform (formerly Hummingbird) will remain open-source and be available to other entrepreneurs to use to drive their own discovery and social capabilities. The seed round investment from Bernard Chong and VIZ Media coincides with a ground-up rewrite and redesign of the Kitsu platform, now placing a greater emphasis on the social component of a user’s experience.
While a key selling point of the platform for many users has been the functionality to track the anime and manga they’ve seen and are planning to see, “Version 3” of the platform heavily focuses on the social aspect, leveraging a robust machine learning engine to surface content users will be more likely to enjoy, including not just one-to-one, show-to-show recommendation pairings, but sophisticated taste-based content cohorts (interest clusters).