Autio, the location-based audio entertainment app co-founded by actor Kevin Costner, has announced a $5.9 million funding round and strategic partnership with iHeartMedia, the largest audio media company in the United States.
The company was formerly known as HearHere and last raised financing of $3.2 million one year ago.
The new round of financing, led by iHeartMedia, will be used to expand across the United States, fuel personnel growth and support additional product functionality. The partnership also exposes Autio to iHeartMedia’s broadcast radio channels and podcasts, where it is the top podcast publisher globally, according to Podtrac.
The funding follows Autio’s appearance on the television show “Shark Tank” in March when co-founder Woody Sears turned down a $1 million investment offer. Shortly after the appearance, Autio’s app saw downloads increased by almost 500% while new subscribers more than doubled.
Using GPS, Autio offers more than 10,000 two- to four-minute stories about nearby landmarks and towns to “paint a picture you’re unlikely to get from a history book or visitor’s guide,” according to its website.
“We’ve grown immensely over the past year, adding over 2,000 stories to our platform with new stories released each week,” Sears said. “This year, we’re focused on bringing even more unique stories to our community and expanding our reach to new audiences.”
Costner has played a role in expanding the app's content.
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“I was drawn to Autio because of my love for history and the history across all the roads of America. It was important to me to start with the stories of the first peoples, all the while uncovering the true drama of America’s history,” Costner said. “This new funding will let us find, produce, and share even more incredible stories that we hope our members will love.”
The funding also comes off the heels of Autio’s first in-flight integration with JetBlue announced last month. The partnership gives JetBlue passengers access to audio content for 29 of the airline’s destination cities via its Avant seatback screens.
The partnership with iHeart, which says it reaches 9 of 10 Americans every month, will introduce Autio to millions of new listeners, Sears said.
Joe Robinson, president of ventures for iHeartMedia, agreed. “We know our listeners will want to dive into the intriguing storytelling that Autio offers,” he said. “We are excited to work with Autio as they dramatically scale the number of stories, nationally and worldwide, by working with those that know best – local storytellers.”