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Autio, Kevin Costner’s location-based audio storytelling app, raises $5.9M.

Photo Credit: Tech Crunch

iHeartMedia led a $5.9 million seed extension for Autio, originally HearHere, a location-based audio entertainment app co-founded by actor Kevin Costner. The software uses Geolocation to tell stories about nearby landmarks, cities, and villages to help users connect with their surroundings.

In August 2020, CEO Woody Sears, William Werlin, and Costner founded Autio as HearHere with 1,500 location-based stories. Autio has over 230,000 users and 10,000 US stories. Currently exclusively accessible on iOS, Autio is testing an Android app in private beta and hopes to release it shortly.

The two- to four-minute pieces include local knowledge, including hidden gems. In addition, John Lithgow, Phil Jackson, and Costner narrate certain stories. Free memberships get five stories, whereas $36 annual subscriptions have unlimited access.

Travelers can browse adjacent tales with location access. Users may still view the US map and listen to material based on their interests when not traveling. Sears told TechCrunch that while most users listen to tales on road trips, many use the app on aircraft, while walking, and even remotely from home. Sears and the team thought that “HearHere” was solely connected with listening to a tale at its location, but the firm intended to focus on audio for travel.

Sears said the financing would increase the app’s content collection, attract new consumers, and grow the startup’s personnel. Expanding into other US locations will also be funded.

“We’ll build enterprise connectors to display our content in new and fascinating ways,” Sears added. More community-focused tools that encourage story-sharing and discovery are going out this year. We’re also testing new overseas markets.”

Stonks, Cooley Law, Blue 9 Capital, Seraph Group, Eric Ries, and Kern Venture Group invested. Autio’s expanded seed round follows last year’s $3.2 million seed investment and 2021’s $1.6 million pre-seed deal. Autio has raised $10.7 million with its newest round.

iHeartMedia led the newest fundraising round and will advertise the firm. iHeartMedia’s multiplatform audio network—broadcast radio, podcast, internet, social, and live events—will help Autio reach new audiences.

Autio was featured on Shark Tank the same month it received the money. The app’s downloads and subscriptions increased shortly after the broadcast, even though Sears declined Kevin O’Leary’s $1 million investment offer. Autio had 464% more app downloads, 105% more subscriptions, and 1,600% more website traffic.

Last month, Autio launched its first in-flight integration with JetBlue, providing passengers with audio material for 29 US destinations on their seatback screens.

Sears says Autio wants to become the worldwide platform for local tales.

“It all starts with the ability of a single narrative to excite a listener and link them with a location or person,” Sears added. “Globally, we anticipate millions of these sorts of connections established every day as users get to experience the greater world around them through this extremely intimate medium.”

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