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Audio recording of the 996 Community Meetup in San Francisco, where Hans Tung and Zara Zhang held a short panel and Q&A on tech in China. Join the community via WeChat/Slack at 996.ggvc.com/community.
Google will invest $550 million in China’s second-largest e-commerce company, JD.com (NASDAQ: JD; market cap $63B) as part of a strategic partnership, the two companies announced.
The partnership could help Google expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle global rivals like Amazon. The Google-Amazon battle is intensifying, especially in the area of home assistants.
By partnering with JD.com, Google could further tighten its relationship with Walmart, which is an exiting investor and one of the largest shareholders of JD.com. For JD.com, the Google deal helps the Chinese company build global alliances as it seeks to counter Alibaba worldwide. Together, Google and JD.com could challenge the dominance of Amazon and Alibaba in key markets around the world, analysts said.
The deal also signals JD.com’s commitment to integrating cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics with its retail offerings. According to JD.com’s latest financial report, the company spent $400 million on “technology and content” in Q1 2018—a 87.2% year-on-year increase—as a result of the company’s “continual investment in top R&D talent and technology infrastructure.” JD.com has hired industry experts such as He Xiaodong, former principal researcher at Microsoft Research’s AI unit. Watch a video of JD.com’s fully-automated warehouse in Shanghaihere.
Recently, Google has stepped up its involvements in China, where the majority of its services continues to be banned. It struck a patent licensing partnership with Tencent, set up an AI lab in Beijing, and invested in game streaming startup Chushou.
The announcement of the partnership came on June 18 (“618”), JD.com’s annual shopping festival equivalent of Alibaba’s “singles day” (November 11). 618 was initiated by JD.com in 2010 to celebrate the company’s founding on June 18. For this year’s 618, JD.com reported revenue of nearly 160 billion yuan ($24.9 billion), a 37% increase from last year. In comparison, Alibaba’s Singles Day in 2017 raked in $25.3 billion.
Note: Chushou is a GGV portfolio company. GGV was an early investor in Alibaba in 2003.
A Big Deal: VIPKID Raises $500M at $3B+ Valuation
VIPKID, a startup that connects Chinese students with English teachers outside of China, has raised $500 million in a series D+ round that values it at over $3 billion. The funding was the world’s largest round ever secured in the online education sector. Investors in the round include Coatue Management, Tencent, Sequoia Capital, and Yunfeng Capital.
Founded in 2013, VIPKID provides one-to-one online English classes to Chinese children aged 4 to 12. All teachers are native speakers based outside of China. Last August, the company launched a new product, Lingo Bus, which provides Chinese lessons to children outside of China.
The company has raised a total of $700 million, with over 300,000 paying students and 40,000 English teachers outside of China on its platform. China’s online education market is currently estimated to be worth RMB 300 billion ($46 billion).
An Original: 8 Lessons from the Rise of Tik Tok
Douyin (Tik Tok), the short video app made by the $30-billion Chinese media startup ByteDance, reached 150 million daily active users in less than two years and was the most-downloaded iOS app in the world in Q1 2018. How did it do this, and what can Western companies learn from it? Read our analysis here (the post also includes multiple popular Douyin videos).
A Take: Making Sense of the “Tou-Teng War”
In an insightful article that went viral on WeChat, the commentator Qu Kai wrote that Douyin (Tik Tok) will post a real threat to Tencent if it becomes a more social product and evolve into a real community. He notes that communication and community are two different concepts. Communication is about consuming content as a result of your relationships with people; community is about forming relationships with people because you consumed their content. Tencent—which has WeChat and QQ—now owns communication, but ByteDance has the potential to own community.
Note: ByteDance is a GGV portfolio company.
A Product: WeChat Changes its Subscription Interface
One potential impact is that long-tail content creators will be able to win more traffic from the largest accounts which have largely dominated the vast majority of readership. Readers will also be more choosy about what to read and what to ignore, and content creators will need to make the most of the title and banner for each article to catch user’s attention.
The update is currently available on iOS and will be coming soon for Android.
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Ant Financial has raised $14 billion in a series C, the world’s largest private funding round ever, at a reported valuation of $150 billion. Ant, which was spun out from Alibaba in 2011, owns and operates Alipay, China’s largest online and mobile payments network, and has been instrumental in transforming China into a largely cashless society.
The financing included a US dollar tranche backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, Warburg Pincus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Silver Lake, and Temasek Holdings. A RMB component of the funding was supported mainly by existing shareholders. The funding makes Ant the world’s most valuable fintech company.
Here is a great read from Bloomberg on “why China’s payment apps give US bankers nightmares.” In large part due to Alipay, the vast majority of Chinese consumer purchases happen on mobile cheaply and easily without bank involvement. US financial firms could lose up to $90 billions a year in payment processing fees if American consumers embrace third-party apps en masse the way Chinese consumers have adopted Alipay and WeChat Pay.
Note: GGV Capital was an early investor in Alibaba in 2003.
A Big Deal: Xiaohongshu Raises $300M Round Led By Alibaba
Chinese social e-commerce startup Xiaohongshu (“Little Red Book” in Chinese, a.k.a. RED) has raised a $300 million series D round led by Alibaba at an estimated $3 billion valuation.
This makes Xiaohongshu one of the few companies to have received significant funding from both Tencent and Alibaba (another example is Didi Chuxing, also a GGV portfolio company). Xiaohongshu is a pioneer in integrating content, commerce, and community—the “3 Cs” that today’s e-commerce platforms must possess in order to stand out in the age of Alibaba and Amazon.
For more on Xiaohongshu, listen to our interview with Co-Founder Miranda Qu on the 996 Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, SoundCloud, XimalayaFM, or wherever else you listen to podcasts.
Note: Xiaohongshu is a GGV portfolio company; Hans Tung, managing partner of GGV Capital, is on the company’s board.
A Big Deal: JollyChic Raises Series C, Becomes Unicorn
Chinese e-commerce platform JollyChic has raised an undisclosed amount rumored to be in the hundreds of million in a series C round from Sequoia Capital and Legend Capital at a valuation of $1 billion.
Founded in 2012, Hangzhou-based JollyChic specializes in selling Chinese goods to Middle Eastern countries. It is the top-ranking shopping app in many countries in the region, including UAE and Saudi Arabia (where it is ranked No. 1 among all Android apps).
JollyChic has over 35 million registered users and says its gross merchandise volume has tripled for five consecutive years. The company sells to 34 countries and has has over 2,500 employees spread across offices in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Silicon Valley, Saudia Arabia, Dubai, UAE and Jordan.
A Big Deal: Kuaishou Acquires Acfun
Kuaishou, the company behind one of the most popular short video apps in China, has acquired the online video platform Acfun. Launched in 2007, Acfun—nicknamed “A-site” (A站)—was one of China’s top animation and video-streaming sites, targeting Gen-Z users born after 1990.
Kuaishou, which is backed by Tencent, said Acfun’s brand, operations and management will remain independent after the takeover, while Kuaishou will provide support in capital, technology, and resources.
While its archrival Bilibili (NASDAQ: BILI), nicknamed “B-site” (B站) in China, launched a $400 million IPO in New York in March, Acfun has struggled over the past year and saw its daily active users plummet to 100,000 in January from around 700,000 in mid-2017. There have been rumors that the company was financially strained and was forced to lay off employees. In February, the Acfun website went down for 10 days.
By acquiring Acfun, Kuaishou could diversify its content, expand its user base, and fend off its rival Douyin, a short video app operated by the media giant ByteDance.
Note: ByteDance is a GGV portfolio company.
A Chart: Foxconn and Apple’s Growth
Foxconn Industrial Internet, a unit of the manufacturing giant Foxconn, has become China’s most valuable domestically-listed tech company after its shares surged 44% in a trading debut in Shanghai on Friday. FII raised RMB 27.1 billion in mainland China’s largest IPO since 2015.
Its parent company, Taiwan-based Foxconn, rose to prominence as as a contract manufacturer of Apple iPhones. However, as the global smartphone market slows, Foxconn is making a push into industrial technology, such as automating other manufacturers’ processes. Foxconn recently bought 20,000 textbooks about AI for all of its employees to study, including line workers and office secretaries.
996 Podcast: Jenny Lee of GGV Capital on Being a VC in China
We interviewed Jenny Lee, a managing partner at GGV Capital based in Shanghai. Jenny joined GGV in 2005 and was instrumental in setting up GGV’s presence in China. Forbes recently ranked Jenny as the world’s 16th most powerful woman in tech.
A self-professed geek who loves new technologies and products, Jenny has backed consumer Internet, SaaS, and frontier technology companies at GGV, and has helped many go public. Since 2011, Jenny has been named to the Forbes Global 100 VC Midas List of top venture capitalists, ranking as the #1 woman and #10 overall in 2015.
Jenny grew up in Singapore and was educated in the US, where she attended Cornell and Northwestern University. In this episode, we discussed how Jenny rose from a newcomer to one of the most respected VCs in China, how she set up the China presence of a US venture capital firm, how venture deals are done in China, and how US companies can better understand Chinese government interests.
A Big Deal: Tencent Under Fire for Investing in Media Startup Accused of Plagiarism
Tencent has drawn plenty of negative reviews after investing in a media startup, Cha Ping (差评), whose name literally means “negative reviews” in Chinese. Cha Ping, which publishes tech news, has been accused of plagiarism by several prominent independent media professionals and multiple media outlets.
Cha Ping was supposed to receive $4.7 millions in funding from one of Tencent’s investment units. But the backlash caused by the announcement of the deal has made Tencent think twice. Tencent announced it will apply a more rigorous due diligence process and may withdraw its investment in Cha Ping.
Specifically, Cha Ping is accused of “Xi Gao” (洗稿, literally “text laundering”), which means republishing other people’s content after rearranging paragraphs and minor editing. Cha Ping’s case has rekindled a debate in China’s media industry about what exactly constitutes plagiarism, and what is the boundary between borrowing and stealing others’ content.
“90% of the news in the world is second-hand news, but even second-hand news has its ethics. You need to cite the sources properly and link to them,” read a commentary on Chinese tech media outlet PingWest, which counts itself as a victim of Cha Ping’s plagiarism.
At the very least, the debate is an indication that, in a country where the attitude towards intellectual property used to be more cavalier, awareness about copyright issues is at an all-time high.
105% – The increase in Bilibili’s Q1 2018 net revenue compared to the same period last year. In the online video company’s first quarter as a public company, Bilibili reported strong growth driven by revenues from mobile games (which account for close to 80% of total revenue), live broadcasting, and advertising.
Tencent Blocks ByteDance’s Douyin; Doubles Down in Short Video
Tencent has blocked links to videos on Douyin (抖音, whose overseas version is called Tik Tok)—one of China’s most popular short video apps owned by ByteDance (a.k.a Toutiao) on WeChat Moments, intensifying the rivalry between a tech giant and its up-and-coming challenger. Now, users who want to share a Douyin video must download the video first and then post it on WeChat Moments as an original video (see screenshot below).
Douyin’s meteoric rise in the past year has threatened the dominance of Tencent’s apps. According to QuestMobile, Douyin’s daily active user base grew from 10 million in August 2017 to 40 million in January 2018. Following the incident, ByteDance published a statement through its official WeChat account denouncing Tencent’s unfair treatment.
Tencent has its own ambitions in short videos, a format that is increasingly replacing live streaming to be the national favorite for entertaining content. In 2013, Tencent launched its own short video app Wei Shi (微视) which never took off and was closed down in April 2017. Around the same time, Tencent led a $350 million investment round in Kuaishou, China’s most popular short video app and Douyin’s biggest competitor. Last month, Tencent relaunched Wei Shi with new features in hopes of challenging Bytedance’s apps.
Note: ByteDance is a GGV portfolio company.
A Video: How Alibaba is Transforming Restaurants in China
Alibaba’s Koubei, a local-services platform, has transformed a traditional restaurant to keep up with modern consumers. Watch here.
996 Podcast: Yasheng Huang of MIT on the Future of US-China Trade Relations
In the first joint live session of GGV Capital’s 996 Podcast and The Sinica Podcast, we interviewed Yasheng Huang, a renowned economist and Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. We were joined by Kaiser Kuo, host of the Sinica Podcast and producer of the 996 Podcast.
Professor Yasheng Huang founded and runs the China Lab and the India Lab at MIT, which aim to help entrepreneurs in those countries improve their management skills. He is an expert source on international business, political economy, and international management. In collaboration with other scholars, Huang is conducting research on human capital formation in China and India, entrepreneurship, and ethnic and labor-intensive foreign direct investment.
In this episode, we discussed the recent trade tensions between the US and China, how geopolitical factors are impacting the global tech industry, and how China’s growth story compares to that of India and other developing countries.
Haidilao was the top Chinese cuisine restaurant both in China and globally based on 2017 revenue, according to the consultancy Frost & Sullivan. For 2017, the company reported an annual profit of 1.028 billion yuan ($161 million), a 39.8% year-on-year increase, according to its filing. Its revenue jumped 36% to 10.6 billion yuan ($1.7 billion).
Founded in 1994, Haidilao, whose name roughly translates to “scooping treasure from the bottom of the sea” has since become the dominant hot pot restaurant chain in a country obsessed with this dish. Founder Zhang Yong, a former tractor factory worker, is now a billionaire.
The restaurants mainly serve spicy Sichuan-style hot pot and are popular for their creative customer service. When it gets crowded, diners pass the time in the waiting area with Internet terminals, board games, and kids’ toys. They can also enjoy a free shoeshine, manicure, or hand massage. On special holidays, magicians in colorful, traditional masks perform tricks. Periodically, a server breaks into the restaurant’s signature Olympic-style “noodle dance.”
Haidilao is also the first hot pot restaurant to roll out a takeout service. When customers order takeout from Haidilao, the restaurant delivers them not just food, but also an electric stove, a pot, a power strip, a tablecloth, aprons, a trash can, extra soup, hair bands (for tying back long hair), a wiping cloth for eyeglasses, toothpicks, and chewing gum.
Haidilao said in the prospectus that it plans to open 180 to 220 new restaurants this year. The hot pot chain is gearing up efforts to take its brand global. The Chengdu-based restaurant chain already has entered overseas markets including Singapore, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Tokyo.
A Big Deal: Qi Lu Steps Down as Baidu COO
Baidu announced on May 18 that its chief operating officer, former Microsoft executive Qi Lu, will be stepping down in July, less than two years into his tenure there. Baidu stock was down more than 9% after the announcement, and its market cap decreased by almost $10 billion.
Lu said in the statement that he can no longer work full time in China for “personal and family reasons” and will spend more time in the US. He will retain his role as vice president of Baidu’s board and will focus on research and development, although he will no longer be working full-time for Baidu.
Lu is part of a recent exodus of Baidu’s senior executives, which includes six out of the company’s original seven founders, former chief scientist Andrew Ng, and former director of its Silicon Valley AI Lab Adam Coates. Various departed key members of Baidu’s self-driving vehicle unit have founded at least four self-driving startups: Roadstar, Pony.ai, Jingchi, and Leadgentech.ai.
Many Chinese commentators wrote that Baidu’s inability to retain talents has shaken public confidence in the company. “Baidu has lost not just Qi Lu, but also the chance to win the next Qi Lu,” one wrote.
1.04 Billion – Number of monthly active users of WeChat, which passed the 1 billion mark for the first time during Q1 2018. Tencent reported that its first-quarter profit increased 61% year-on-year to 23.3 billion yuan ($3.66 billion).
A Graphic: Toutiao Changes its Slogan
In the latest version of its app released this week, ByteDance (a.k.a Toutiao) has changed its slogan from “Headlines that matter to you” (你关心的 才是头条) to “Information creates value” (信息创造价值). In a statement, the company said that as a platform, it will strive towards spreading information that’s not just valuable to people, but also reinforces positive values.
You will get to talk directly with the authors of this newsletter as well as other members of the GGV team, and connect with other like-minded people who care about tech in China. You can pitch us startup ideas, ask us questions about fundraising, suggest guests to interview, or give us feedback. Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, will host regular AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions in these groups.
How to join the Slack channel:
Head to 996.ggvc.com, and input your email under the icon below.
Huya is a spin-off of NASDAQ-listed YY, a GGV portfolio company. Following the offering, YY will hold 54.9% voting power in Huya, while a Tencent investment unit will hold 39.5%, Huya said in a statement.
China had the world’s largest video games market in terms of revenues and number of gamers in 2017, Huya said. In 2017, revenue from the gaming industry in Asia totaled $51.2 billion, almost double the revenue of the North American market. China’s e-sports market had the largest gamer base in the world with approximately 229 million gamers in 2017, and is expected to reach 537 million gamers by 2022, according to a Frost & Sullivan Report cited by Huya’s IPO filing.
As of Q4 2017, Huya had 610,000 monthly active streamers, which is more than the 550,000 that Twitch had. Huya had nearly 40 million average mobile monthly active users in the same period. Its revenue almost tripled to $344 million in 2017 from the previous year.
E-sports live streaming is one of the most popular content genres on Huya, which works with e-sports event organizers and game developers. Huya has also expanded into other entertainment genres, such as talent shows, anime, and outdoor activities.
Read Huya’s F-1 here.
Note: Huya’s parent company, YY, is a GGV portfolio company.
A Big Deal: DJI Raising $1 Billion
DJI, the world’s largest maker of drones for consumers, has picked five or six lead investors after receiving offers from around 100 investors to participate in its latest $1 billion funding round, according to local Chinese media reports. DJI’s valuation has reportedly shot up from $300 million to $15 billion within five years.
As part of the terms, prospective investors who want to invest in DJI equity must also provide the company with an interest-free loan. If DJI goes public, the loans convert into equity.
The fundraising has been described by local media as a pre-IPO round, despite earlier statements from the company that it was not interested in going public. DJI is the world’s leading civilian drone maker, with a global market share of around 70% and US market share of 50% as of 2017.
A Big Deal: Restaurant Booking App Raises $63M from Alibaba and Ctrip
Mei Wei Bu Yong Deng (美味不用等, or “deliciousness without the wait”), a mobile app that helps restaurants better manage their bookings and customer wait times, has raised $63 million from Alibaba and Ctrip in a series D1 financing round.
Founded in 2013, Mei Wei provides software solutions to restaurants allowing customers to automatically take a waitlist number and to be elsewhere during their wait time. It has partnered with 100,000 restaurants across more than 200 cities in China. The company’s vision is to enable the equivalent of “autonomous driving for the restaurant industry,” using AI to provide smart solutions that connect restaurants with customers and supply chains and dishes. It has previously received funding from Meituan-Dianping and Baidu.
The company also revealed plans to open its first “shared dining area” in Shanghai in June. Customers will be able to order food from restaurants within 800 meters from the venue and enjoy the food together. This way, people with different tastes and preferences can each order their favorite food, but still eat at the same physical location.
$3.14 Billion – amount earned by domestic Chinese movie theaters at the box office in Q1 2018, which is 42% higher than the North American box office total for the same period, according to Caixin.
This marks the first time that China’s film market has surpassed North America in quarterly box office revenue. The jump can be attributed to popular domestic blockbusters during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday in February. The five top-grossing films during the first quarter were all domestic productions, led by action movie “Operation Red Sea.”
A Video: Jack Ma Says “Never Give Up”
Jack Ma, who was rejected from college three times in his youth, received an honorary doctoral degree from Tel Aviv University in Israel last week. Watch his acceptance speech here.
996 Podcast: Yinglian Xie and Fang Yu of DataVisor on Fighting Fraud with Machine Learning
We interviewed Yinglian Xie and Fang Yu, the co-founders of DataVisor, a fast-growing startup in Silicon Valley that provides big data security analytics for consumer-facing websites and apps. Its customers include some of the world’s largest companies, such as Alibaba, Dianping, Pinterest, Yelp, and Bytedance (a.k.a. Toutiao), among others.
We discuss why China has the potential to be a great market for SaaS businesses, what it’s like to be female founders in a highly technical space, and how DataVisor uses a unique approach—unsupervised machine learning—to fight fraud.
China’s “Uber for trucks,” Manbang Group, has raised $1.9 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, CapitalG (formerly known as “Google Capital”), and other investors.
Manbang Group runs a mobile app that connects truck drivers with shippers looking to transport cargo. It is the result of a merger last November between two companies, Yunmanman and Huochebang. GGV was an investor in Yunmanman.
Currently, 1.25 million out of the 1.5 million logistics companies in China are members of Manbang. The company has also expanded into new services such as providing vehicle loans, insurance, and working capital to its users.
“This is a great example of mobile Internet enhancing the efficiency of an offline sector,” said Jixun Foo, managing partner at GGV Capital, who led our investment in Yunmanman before its merger with Huochebang.
61% – the YoY growth of Alibaba’s fiscal fourth-quarter revenue
Alibaba posted better-than-expected 61% revenue growth for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, fueled by strong e-commerce business.
The company’s fourth-quarter revenue surged to 61.9 billion yuan ($9.9 billion). Alibaba’s core commerce business grew 62% year-on-year to 51.3 billion yuan ($8 billion), while its cloud computing business grew 103% to 4.4 billion yuan ($692 million). Management projected 60% revenue growth for the 2019 fiscal year.
Alibaba’s net profit declined 29% year-on-year in the quarter to 7.6 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), reflecting increased spending to expand its business reach to brick-and-mortar retail, cloud computing, and logistics, the company reported.
A Big Deal: Tencent Leads $820M Investment in Robot Maker Ubtech
Shenzhen-based artificial intelligence and humanoid robotic company Ubtech Robotics (优必选) completed an $820 million funding round led by Tencent, valuing the company at $5 billion. The round made Ubtech the world’s most valuable AI startup.
Founded in 2012, Ubtech is a developer of consumer humanoid robots for business, entertainment, and educational purposes. It aims to “bring a robot into every home.” The company’s products are available in more than 40 countries. Its offerings include an educational robot for kids, a humanoid service robot, and a Star Wars-inspired Stormtrooper robot.
The company’s Alpha 1S robot holds the Guinness World Record for “most robots dancing simultaneously.” During the CCTV 2016 Spring Festival Gala, China’s most-watched TV program, one of the performances featured 540 Ubtech robots dancing on stage.
A Read on Xiaomi:
Xiaomi’s Application Proof (draft) for IPO that was submitted to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last week.
Note: Xiaomi is a GGV portfolio company. Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, is an early investor and former board member of Xiaomi.