Verizon Ventures backs Jana to bring Internet to emerging markets

Verizon Ventures has lead a $57 million round for Jana, a company that brings free Internet to emerging markets.

Boston-based mobile Internet start-up Jana has raised $57 million in funding to bring free Internet to emerging markets. The funding round was led by Verizon Ventures.

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Tim Armstrong, CEO of Verizon's AOL, will get a spot on Jana's board as part of the deal. Verizon says this is just an investment and is not indicative of the company's future.

"I'm excited that Verizon Ventures has invested in a company that is seeking to transform access to the internet. By 2020, more than 5 billion people will be mobile, and new, engaging ways to access data will become increasingly important worldwide," Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, said in a prepared remark.

Recode reports that Nathan Eagle, CEO of Jana, will primarily deploy the capital to create a sales force in India and Brazil -- key areas for the company. It eventually plans to expand into China sometime during the second quarter of this year.

Jana's business is centered around deploying free Internet in emerging markets. The users access the Internet by filling out surveys and seeing ads -- at no cost. It has facilitated 30 million people connecting through its partnership agreements. Jana won't confirm revenue numbers, but did say it has had profitable quarters.

"In four years, brands will spend an estimated $300 billion on advertising, which provides a major opportunity for Jana to work with brands to offset data costs for accessing the Internet," Verizon Ventures director Vijay Doradla told VentureBeat.

There's a rush by companies to emerging markets in hopes of capturing vast marketshare. Jana is in direct competition with similar projects as Facebook and Google, who want to serve advertisements to a big portion of the world who don't have Internet.

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