After raising a further $100m, Discord is now valued at $3.5bn

1 Jul 2020

Discord CEO and founder Jason Citron. Image: Discord

Years after launching as a chat and VoIP app for online gamers, Discord is bringing in changes to help people use the platform more for day-to-day conversations.

On Tuesday (30 June), Discord announced that it has raised $100m in venture funding, bringing its valuation to a reported $3.5bn. The company’s previous valuation, which it shared 18 months ago, was $2.05bn.

According to an interview in Forbes, Index Ventures’ Danny Rimer, whose firm invested in Discord’s $150m funding round in 2018, called the start-up in February 2020 to offer additional backing – which Discord accepted in June.

Now, the company is looking to expand its services beyond the gaming community it was originally aimed at, saying that the platform is increasingly being used for more “day-to-day communication” by users.

Moving past ‘missteps’

Discord was founded by CEO Jason Citron and CTO Stan Vishnevskiy in 2015, with the goal of providing voice, video and text chat to gamers. The co-founders admitted in the Forbes interview that the company had some “missteps” in its early days, when the app was popular with alt-right groups.

After a woman was killed and 34 people were injured at a Charlottesville protest in 2017, an event that was organised by white supremacists through Discord, the company banned servers promoting Nazi ideology. At the time, the firm said that it took action to remove servers and users involved in the Charlottesville incident, while taking steps to “prevent their return”.

In a blogpost announcing its new shift of focus, the company said that it has recently launched a safety centre to help all users understand the rules and what is considered acceptable behaviour on Discord.

“We will continue to take decisive action against white supremacists, racists and others who seek to use Discord for evil,” the co-founders wrote. “Recently, on Juneteenth, we announced new company improvements and initiatives to strengthen civil engagement, social justice, and diversity on Discord. You can read more detail here.”

Citron and Vishnevskiy added that video games “have the power to bring together people, from different walks of life, from different parts of the world, united by something they love”.

“This is why we originally created Discord: we wanted a simple and easy way to capture and enable these feelings we experienced growing up playing games with friends.” However, they said that the platform has evolved and is not “just about video games anymore”.

Making Discord more inclusive

Discord said that the recent $100m in funding will help accelerate its investment into its community, new features and the company.

“Since we launched in 2015, Discord has grown to more than 100m monthly active users. You spend 4bn minutes in conversation daily across 6.7m active servers. On a weekly basis, that’s 26bn server conversation minutes across 13.5m active servers,” Citron and Vishnevskiy said.

They added that as Discord grew from a gaming platform to a space for conversations, the start-up’s branding “didn’t keep up, and the way we talked about ourselves sent the wrong signal to the world”.

The company is now adding new features such as a streamlined user onboarding experience and added server video to make gatherings easier. There are new server templates and voice and video capacity has been increased by 200pc.

“We’ve also made the jokes and references within the app less gaming specific to make sure everyone can take part in the fun and make Discord more welcoming,” the co-founders said. “And we’re launching a new website with a new tagline: Your place to talk.”

Rimer from Index Ventures commented: “I believe Discord is the future of platforms because it demonstrates how a responsibly curated site can provide a safe space for people with shared interested.

“Rather than throwing raw content at you, like Facebook, it provides a shared experience for you and your friends. We’ll come to appreciate that Discord does for social conversation what Slack has done for professional conversation.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic