SoftBank and celebrities back funding for faith-based app

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Elizabeth Howcroft

LONDON (Reuters) - A Christian worship and meditation app, Glorify, raised $40 million from investors including SoftBank, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and reality TV star Kris Jenner, the company said on Thursday.

Founded in the UK in 2020, the app provides faith-based meditation to subscribers via inspirational quotes, worship routines and short Bible extracts.

While the amount raised is small compared to the hundred-million-dollar sums regularly invested by major funds in growing companies, Glorify is one of a number of Christian apps which have grown in recent years, tapping mainstream financing sources.

The app has around 250,000 daily users, mostly in the United States and Brazil.

The fund raising was led by Andreessen Horowitz, known as "a16z". SoftBank's Latin America fund also contributed.

Celebrity investors include Kris Jenner and the singers Michael Buble and Jason Derulo.

"There's an amazing Christian investor ecosystem in the U.S.," said Ed Beccle, who founded Glorify along with Henry Costa.

Beccle said he sought investors whose values aligned with the company, although not all were necessarily Christian.

"The Christian community is both incredibly social and global, but has historically been underserved by new technologies," said Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. "Glorify is changing this."

The growth of Christian apps was in play before the pandemic, particularly in the United States, but demand has skyrocketed recently as lockdowns limit people's ability to go to physical churches.

Christian apps that have been set up in the past few years and have established themselves include one called Abide and another called Pray.

A Catholic prayer app called Hallow said earlier this month it had raised more than $50 million in funding in 2021, from investors including Peter Thiel, with growth having been accelerated by the pandemic.

Glorify said the money it raised will be used to expand the team from its current headcount of around 60 and establish new office locations around the world.

The app also aims to establish an online community which allows for deeper engagement with faith-based content "rather than mass superficial engagement that you'll typically see on traditional social networks," Beccle said.

"In a funny way I'm migrating communities from one place to another, so looking at generic social networks like Instagram, Facebook and so on, seeing that they've got hundreds of highly engaged communities and trying to build a context-specific place for them."

In future, the app could include functions such as Christian dating and tools for managing churches and donations, Beccle said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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