Microblogging Platform Koo Shuts Down After Failed Acquisition Talks

The graveyard of failed social networks is already quite expansive, and it has had yet another addition.

Indian microblogging platform Koo has announced it’s shutting down. The announcement was made by founder Aprameya Radhakrishna on LinkedIn. Koo had been founded in 2020, and had pitched itself as an alternative to Twitter.

koo founders

“Here’s the final update from our end. Our partnership talks fell through and we will be discontinuing our service to the public,” Radhakrishna said. “We explored partnerships with multiple larger internet companies, conglomerates and media houses but these talks didn’t yield the outcome we wanted. Most of them didn’t want to deal with user generated content and the wild nature of a social media company. A couple of them changed priority almost close to signing. While we would’ve liked to keep the app running, the cost of technology services to keep a social media app running is high and we’ve had to take this tough decision,” he added.

“We built a globally scalable product in a fraction of the time that X/Twitter did, with superior systems, algorithms and strong stakeholder-first philosophies. Koo used to have a 10% like ratio, almost 7-10x the ratio Twitter had – making Koo a more favorable platform for creators. At our peak we were at about 2.1 million daily active users and ~10 million monthly active users, 9000+ VIPs, that included some of the most eminent personalities from various fields. We were just months away from beating Twitter in India in 2022 and could have doubled down on that short-term goal with capital behind us,” he continued.

“A prolonged funding winter which hit us at our peak hurt our plans at the time and we had to tone down on our growth trajectory. Social media is probably one of the toughest companies to build, even with all resources available as you need to grow users to a significant scale before one thinks of revenue. We needed 5 to 6 years of aggressive, long-term and patient capital to make this dream a reality,” he continued.

Koo had been founded as a vernacular social network in 2020. The platform’s USP was its availability in several different languages. But Koo shot into prominence in 2021, just as there had been widespread debate about the bias of Twitter, which favoured left-wing talking points, and penalized and banned accounts of creators whose opinions were right-of-centre. This prompted lots of right-leaning Indian creators to jump ship to Koo in an apparent boycott of Twitter — prominent creators set up their Koo accounts, and encouraged their users to follow them on the new platform.

Koo, however, did not pander to this new crowd of users, and kept maintaining that its policies would be neutral unlike those of left-leaning Twitter. The company, though, managed to get several politicians and even news channels — like Republic TV — on its platform. Koo even expanded into international markets, and found userbases in places as far away as Brazil and Nigeria. But just as Koo was picking up momentum, it was dealt a blow from which it could never recover — Elon Musk bought Twitter in April 2022 for $43 billion.

Koo’s biggest USP had been its neutrality in the face of left-leaning censorship of Twitter, and under Elon Musk, Twitter adopted neutral policies of its own. With Twitter again becoming a place where all opinions could be freely discussed, there was little need for users to go to Koo. Koo tried to find a buyer over the next two years, and explored fundraise options, but finally decided to shut down in July 2024.

Koo’s travails show just how hard it is to build a social media company. Koo had virtually everything going for it — its founder was a successful entrepreneur, having sold Taxi4Sure to Ola for $200 million. The company found tailwinds in a right-wing boycott of Twitter by Indian users, and users flocked to its platform without it needing to spend heavily on promotions. It managed to get investors including Tiger Global and Accel on board, and also saw support from prominent angels including Balaji Srinivasan and Naval Ravikant. But a left field event — Musk’s acquisition of Twitter — scuttled its plans, and forced it to shut down. But Koo can hold its head high — hundreds of startups, gurus, and even Google have failed to build their own social networks, but Koo came mighty close to creating a dent on the global digital stage,.