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By Helen Coster
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Video-sharing website BitChute is raising $10 million in Series A funding at a valuation of $750 million to $1 billion, according to one of its investors and a presentation seen by Reuters, as it seeks to add new features that allow live-streaming and the payment of content creators by users.
BitChute, which bills itself as a free-speech alternative to Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc-owned YouTube and other platforms, has had “negligible” revenue to date, shareholder Jeffrey Wernick, told Reuters, even though it has attracted a significant user base, particularly among young men.
“I’m not really raising the money just because we need the money,” Wernick said in an interview. “I want to raise the money because I want to get allies in this business. I want people who are committed to a path of decentralization and censorship resistance and privacy and data sovereignty.”
An August 2022 Reuters Special report found that BitChute’s users post racist videos and comments inciting violence.
BitChute said in response at the time that it complies with the law and has rules banning racist content or incitement of violence.
Wernick, when asked for comment, said: “Bitchute is proud to be a free speech platform acknowledging the First Amendment and all that applies.”
“The way to deal with offensive speech is engage or ignore. We also welcome and challenge all of those who want to build a better internet to join BitChute by contributing to the ecosystem we will build of competitive content moderation so we collectively can empower users and not authoritarians,” he said. “We also respect the laws of all jurisdictions we operate in.”
BitChute’s fundraising will test investors’ appetite for alternative social media platforms, an area that has seen several new entrants that have struggled to raise funding.
Wernick said BitChute was pursuing a combination of high net-worth individuals and venture capital funds. He declined to provide specific names.
He has an equity stake in BitChute and is also an investor in Parler, Gab, Airbnb and Uber (NYSE:).
Wernick said that together with fellow bitcoin enthusiasts Patrick Dai and Matthew Branton, they control 60% of BitChute after investing a “nontrivial” amount in the company. The remaining 40% is controlled by cofounders Ray Vahey and Rich Jones, Wernick said.
It is not clear if BitChute can reach the valuation it is seeking. Its investor presentation said BitChute had 218 million unique visitors in 2022, down 15.8% from 2021, with a projection of 247 million unique visitors this year.
By November 2024, aided by the new funding, it is projecting more than two billion visits – defined as a single session on the site with one or more page views.
Executives’ immediate goal is to upgrade features so that content creators can get paid by users, and later to enable live-streaming on the site.
Their longer-term goal is to “decentralize” BitChute, so that it is blockchain-based and users can decide whether to have content moderation.