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Rumble Inc., a Toronto-based YouTube challenger that has recently become a destination for right-wing content creators, has raised an undisclosed sum from prominent American conservative investors.

The investment was led by Narya Capital, a Cincinnati-based venture capital firm co-founded by Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, who has been preparing to seek the Republican nomination for a U.S. senate seat in Ohio after reportedly receiving counsel from former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Mr. Vance and Narya co-founder Colin Greenspon used to work for Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital. Mr. Thiel, a leading conservative, is also investing in Rumble, as is Dallas-based Darren Blanton, a former adviser to Mr. Trump, through his family’s Colt Ventures.

It’s the first outside investment for Rumble. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the financing Wednesday, said the investment values Rumble at US$500-million. Chief executive officer Chris Pavlovski declined to reveal the size of the investment or the valuation.

Rumble, which launched in 2013, has long positioned itself as a friendlier alternative for small content creators than YouTube. It saw a spike in popularity after prominent U.S. conservatives, including radio host Dan Bongino, encouraged followers to use it instead of mainstream social media giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter after they tightened up on allowed content during last fall’s U.S. election and following the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January.

The Journal recently reported Conservative investors were looking to fund Rumble to set up social media alternatives to mainstream giants they believe restrict free speech, as the tech giants come under increasing scrutiny for their control over digital channels that reach deep into the everyday lives of billions of citizens globally.

“We don’t discriminate on who joins our platform at all,” said Mr. Pavlovski, a 37-year-old Toronto native, who describes himself as has having no U.S. political views. “We welcome everyone, whether you like cats or dogs … [or] whether you’re left or right.”

Recent posts to Rumble include an array of content including mainstream news reports and videos of laughing babies and a snacking hamster.

Mr. Pavlovski added Rumble has an “extremely strict content moderation standards when it comes to inciting violence, antisemitism, racism, pornography and terrorist groups … among some other stuff. We don’t allow any of that onto our platform whatsoever.”

He acknowledged the company’s flood of traffic – which rose to an average of 31 million views a month in the first quarter, from 1.6 million in the same period in 2020 – was driven by leading voices from the U.S. right last summer and fall, but added, “The growth now seems to be happening more in a wide variety of different things, general categories across the spectrum.”

He said traffic has continued to expand from levels early this year. “It’s not driven by politics. It’s not a huge political environment anymore.”

Rumble was also in the news this year after launching an antitrust lawsuit in January against YouTube parent Google LLC in federal court in California, alleging Google’s search engine is “rigging” search results to give preference to YouTube results, depriving it of traffic, users, uploads, brand awareness and revenue. Rumble is seeking damages in excess of US$2-billion. Google has called the claims “baseless” and filed a motion to dismiss part of the lawsuit.

Mr. Pavlovski said he started Rumble to give smaller creators the same opportunity and tools and distribution for their content as larger players crowded them off the giant platforms. “I felt all the incumbent platforms were deprioritizing the small creators and giving preference to large creators, influencers, brands, etc., and that’s why I started this business.”

He said Rumble doesn’t use artificial intelligence or algorithms to amplify content. “Rumble doesn’t have that,” he said. “When you open up the Rumble app, it’s chronological. We don’t amplify, we don’t allow resharing, we don’t allow content to be amplified at all. We just feel it’s better for society.”

He said the company plans to use the proceeds to expand livestreaming services, grow internationally and offer cloud solutions to third parties.

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