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This Toronto-based website surged to a half-billion-dollar valuation almost overnight — thanks in part to interest from conservative American investors

This Toronto-based website surged to a half-billion-dollar valuation almost overnight — thanks in part to interest from conservative American investors
Business
Until recently, Rumble Inc. was just another video-sharing platform toiling in relative obscurity, its presence rendered irrelevant by social media titans like YouTube. Then, almost overnight, its user base surged to 50 million unique page views per month, according to its own metrics, and the money started gushing in.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the website, which operates out of a small office in Toronto’s financial district, is now valued at about half a billion dollars.

Chris Pavlovski, the son of Macedonian immigrants who grew up in Brampton, never expected the site he founded in 2013 to take off seven years later. He acknowledges that much of this sudden success is due to a surge in interest from America’s far-right.

“The past months have been crazy, to be honest,” the 37-year-old told the Star.

For years, the website operated on a shoestring budget, offering an alternative to YouTube for independent vloggers and smaller creators whose content was taking a hit from algorithms and corporate competitors.

The site, which hosts 150,000 creators, includes a hodgepodge of material, ranging from the typical internet videos — funny-looking cats and dancing babies, mostly — to the political ramblings of Trump-brand conservatives. The site isn’t supposed to be an arbiter of fact or opinion, Pavlovski says, echoing similar stances taken by sites such as Gab and Parler, two alternatives to mainstream social media outlets like Twitter.

Rather, the singular goal, he says, is to foster an algorithm-free platform for smaller creators — an approach that appears to have hit home with the American right.

In November, as the 2020 U.S. presidential election came to a close, the website welcomed scores of supporters of then-president Donald Trump, many of whom left mainstream social-media platforms in search of friendlier alternatives. They found outlets like Gab, Parler and Rumble, places where pundits no longer welcome on platforms like YouTube could set up shop.

Since then, some of America’s wealthiest venture capitalists have piled money into the website to help it compete with its gargantuan rivals.

Rumble recently accepted an undisclosed sum from Narya Capital, a venture-capital firm founded by J.D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and the prospective Republican candidate for one of Ohio’s U.S. Senate seats.

The company has also received investments from Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley’s leading conservative billionaire, as well as Darren Blanton, a former Trump adviser.

Pavlovski declined to reveal the valuation of the company in an interview with the Star, and experts reached by the Star said they didn’t have enough information to give a value to the company. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the financing last month, the investment values the company at roughly $500 million (U.S.).

“We’ve now become the go-to place for a large segment of the U.S. population looking for a platform other than YouTube,” Pavlovski says.

With the new investments, Pavlovski says the company plans to expand its live streaming services and offer cloud-based solutions to third parties. He also says he wants the company to grow internationally.

Despite the influx of conservative content, Pavlovski wants the platform to be more apolitical.

“Whether you like cats or dogs, or you’re left wing or right wing, we won’t discriminate against who gets to join our platform,” he says.

Yet Pavlovski has made no secret of courting influential politicians to the site. Shortly before the U.S. election, he hopped on a phone call with American congressman and ardent Trump-supporter Devin Nunes, whose metrics were dwindling on YouTube, and invited him to Rumble. after the politician was chastised by YouTube for spreading medical misinformation about COVID-19.

Pavlovski says the platform has a strong team of moderators that remove users for any language or content deemed racist, anti-Semitic or prejudicial. But the platform has also shown ample tolerance for pundits whose content was banned from YouTube.

“On Rumble, we don’t amplify anything,” Pavlovski says. “It’s purely chronological, and only delivered to your subscribers.”

The company was also in the news recently for launching an antitrust lawsuit against YouTube’s owner, Google, in federal court in California. Rumble alleged that Google’s search engine “rigged” search results to prioritize YouTube results, thus depriving Rumble of traffic and revenue. The company is seeking $2 billion (U.S.) in damages, though Google has called the claim “baseless.”

He acknowledges that the American political climate has been good for business. The people who have joined Rumble, in recent months, are “doing a big part in promoting the website,” he says.

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“It’s all been organic growth. We haven’t really spent money on trying to bring people to the platform.”

But he insists he doesn’t want the website to be defined by that clientele.

“I’m less interested in American politics and more interested in providing choice and healthy competition for all creators,” he says.
Read more on Toronto Star
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