Alibaba Invests $50 Million in TV-Remote App Startup Peel

The concept of using a mobile app to control your TV is still going strong: Silicon Valley startup Peel announced that Chinese e-commerce and media colossus Alibaba Group has invested an additional $50 million the company.

Peel, which launched its TV-centric universal-remote app in 2012, closed the funding from Alibaba earlier this summer but waited to announce the total until after Alibaba’s recent initial public offering, the largest in U.S. history. Alibaba last year invested $5 million in Peel, which the Chinese company views as giving it a strategic foothold in entertainment and home-control sectors.

To date, Peel has raised a total of nearly $95 million in venture capital from investors that include Redpoint Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Harrison Metal and Translink Capital. Neither Alibaba nor any other single investor owns a controlling stake in Peel, according to a rep for the startup.

According to Peel, it now has 90 million users worldwide for its Android and iOS apps and generates 5 billion remote commands a month. And, key to the Alibaba investment, China is the second-largest market for Peel after the U.S.

“Alibaba was an early strategic investor in our vision for this company,” Peel CEO and co-founder Thiru Arunachalam said. “This new funding is affirmation of our continued exponential rapid growth and innovative leadership in the smart home control market.”

Peel, based in Mountain View, Calif., has 80 employees worldwide. The Peel Smart Remote works with 3,500 brands of TVs and 600 set-top boxes, along with air conditioners and other appliances, and includes TV-show listings for 110 countries, including China.

In July, Peel launched the Peel.in Platform to let TV networks promote tune-in to their shows via Twitter and Facebook; the feature has been used by HBO, Showtime and Sundance TV. The company also sells tune-in ads for the app to networks, which lets users tap the ad to change the channel, with clients including History, FXX and National Geographic.

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