A new startup seeking to change the way the fan community experiences anime, Kitsu, announces it has raised $600,000 in a seed round, receiving funds from San Francisco-based VIZ Media and Manila-based entrepreneur Bernard Chong. Kitsu is putting the cash toward building out its content discovery platform, kitsu.io, under the leadership of Kitsu Founder and CEO Josh Fabian, a former Lead Designer for Groupon Stores and oBaz who began the project under the name “Hummingbird.”
Kitsu is designed to help anime and manga fans track, share and discover content, using a world-class recommendation engine layered with social, machine learning and more. Users have found the ability to track what they’ve already seen and what they are planning to see to be a key selling point, and “Version 3” — a ground-up rewrite and redesign coinciding with the seed round investment — heavily focuses on the social aspect, leveraging a machine learning engine to bring up content users are more likely to enjoy using complex interest clusters rather than show-to-show recommendations.
“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 Fabian. “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, VP 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 Woods. “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,” added 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 will remain open-source and be available to other entrepreneurs.