International payments services are flocking to China

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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International payments services are flocking to China
Image Credit: Shutterstock

More than a few international payments services recently said China had become one of their biggest markets, as an increasing number of Chinese Internet/mobile companies are actively expanding overseas. They find, unsurprisingly, their Chinese customers are mainly gaming companies, for in China, gaming is one of the top revenue-generating online businesses, and one of the first to enter overseas markets.

While Google Play and Apple’s App Store make distributing software applications outside mainland China so much easier than before, prevailing online payments services vary among different countries or regions. Most Internet/mobile companies, including the Chinese ones, have to work with third-party payments companies that keep integrating different types of payments methods and services around the world.

OKPAY, an Europe-based payments company, finds 20 percent of its customers are from China. The service got traction in China after it began supporting Bitcoin transactions on some Chinese exchanges. To better serve Chinese customers, OKPAY has launched the Chinese version of its services and hired Chinese customer service representatives. Currently OKPAY’s customers in China are mostly individuals. The company hopes to power Chinese online retailers who export goods to markets where OKPAY has a strong presence.

OKPAY doesn’t have an office in China yet. Fortumo, an Estonian payments company focused on carrier billing, set up its office in China last year. It offers a package of offerings tailored for Chinese mobile developers, from language translation service to app/content distribution in different markets.

Paymentwall, which has integrated more than 120 payments options, is preparing to open an office in Beijing, China. Chinese payments services, including Alibaba’s Alipay, have been integrated into its all-in-one solution. As the company primarily serves digital content or service providers, its Chinese customers are most gaming companies. To their surprise, the Chinese gaming companies least likely to enter overseas markets began to work with them. Like OKPAY, Paymentwall is considering expanding its customer base in China to include physical good retailers.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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Chinese location-based social app Momo files for U.S. IPO to raise $300M

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Momo, the Chinese location and interest-based social app, has filed for IPO to raise $300 million.

Widely known as a mobile app for connecting strangers with location-based features, Momo now is transforming to an interest-based social platform. Also it has been adding services for businesses to interact with Momo users.

As of September 2014, Momo has 180.3 million registered accounts, 60.2 million monthly active users, 25.5 million daily active users and 2.3 million paying membership subscribers, according to the filing.

The company resembles Tencent in terms of both product evolution and monetization. Momo claims it’s the third most popular social apps in China, after Tencent’s WeChat (or Weixin) and Mobile QQ. While WeChat is for friends, family and acquaintances, Momo differentiates itself as a service for users with similar interests.

Momo started monetization in the third quarter of 2013, making revenues through gaming, paid membership subscriptions and advertising.


An English version was launched in October 2012 but reportedly has been shut down. The company plans to launch a new one for English speakers, according to the filing.

For more about the company please see this article.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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Chinese users can now shop from Alibaba while watching videos on Youku

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Chinese users can now shop from Alibaba while watching videos on Youku
Image Credit: Charles Chan

Alibaba Group and Youku Tudou, the leading Chinese video site in which the former has a stake, jointly announced two programs for online retailers on Alibaba marketplaces to do marketing on the video platform in different ways.

View and Buy on Youku, as the name indicates, allows viewers to buy the items shown in a video without pausing the playing video. It is enabled by Alimama, the Google AdSense-like contextual advertising program of Alibaba. Alimama display ads based on user behavior on Alibaba’s marketplaces.

So far almost all Chinese videos sites make revenues from pre-, mid-, and post-roll ads. Youku Tudou hasn’t turned a profit with it yet. If users liked making purchases when watching a video, the transaction-based ad revenue stream could be a big help to the video site.

A similar program has been available on Sina Weibo, in which Alibaba also has a stake. The one with Sina Weibo allows retailers to post items as micro-posts that users can make purchases from without leaving their Weibo homepage.

Another marketing program announced today is Merchants’ Video Channel on Tudou which is a content marketing project that encourage businesses to produce

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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3 years after opening up to Chinese developers, Tencent eyes global partnerships

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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3 years after opening up to Chinese developers, Tencent eyes global partnerships

Above: Tencent booth at ChinaJoy Expo 2014

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Tencent’s annual business partner conference has been rebranded as its “Global Partner Conference”. The two-day meeting started yesterday, with some interesting foreign faces in attendance. What’s even more interesting, chipmakers Intel and Broadcom showed up as partners of Tencent, a business long known as a software company.

Along with international partners, Tencent also plans to introduce hardware manufacturers and traditional offline businesses as new partners for its open platform. Programming interfaces for connected hardware products to integrate with WeChat and Mobile QQ, its flagship mobile messaging apps, have been launched earlier this year.

Three years ago Tencent had few partners in China. It was notorious for being unwilling to partner with third parties; instead, it would develop me-too apps or services in-house. But as of now there have been 2.4 million apps on MyApp, Tencent’s Android app store, and five million developers using the Tencent platform, Mark Ren, Tencent COO, disclosed today.

Tencent has released more than 10,000 programming interfaces in the past three years for developers to take advantage of its resources and huge user base. Third-party apps monetize on Tencent’s platform through in-app offerings, the advertising network Guang Dian Tong (on which apps can place ads on Tencent’s social products such as QQ IM, Q-zone and Online/mobile payments are supported by Tenpay (Tencent’s equivalent of Alibaba Alipay), WeChat Payment, and QQ Coin (the virtual currency used across Tencent’s products). Tencent and developers share income based on a tiered revenue share plan.

As of June 2014, 22 startups on Tencent’s platform saw over RMB100 million (US$16mn) monthly turnover, according to Dowson Tang, a senior vice president.

The number of developers has increased fourfold in the past year, according to the company. Fifty percent of entrepreneurs on its platform are aged under 25, and there are increasing numbers of small teams.

Still, many Chinese developers are not satisfied with or trust Tencent, claiming it only helps apps that make big profits and that it takes too large a revenue share. But still more would like to, or have to, work with Tencent, given its more than 800 million monthly active QQ IM accounts (with 200 million concurrent accounts) and 439 million monthly active WeChat users in the domestic market and overseas. It remains a strong draw for partners.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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The development of Tencent and its products and services has profoundly influenced the way millions of Internet users communicate with one another socially and will continue to do so in the future. Since Tencent was founded in Nove… read more »

Alipay Wallet has 190M annual active users, processing over 50% of Alipay’s daily transactions

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Alipay Wallet has 190M annual active users, processing over 50% of Alipay’s daily transactions
Image Credit: Andy Mitchell

Alipay Wallet, the mobile app operated by Alibaba’s finance arm, announced today it has had 190 million annual active users.

The number of daily transactions through mobile has reached 45 million, over 50% of the total through Alipay (The Alipay online payment solution doesn’t only support Alibaba’s own marketplaces such as Taobao and Tmall, but also third-party businesses).

A little less than one year ago, Alipay Wallet had 100 million users and was processing one third of Alipay’s transactions. As of the end of 2013, Alipay had a total of 300 million users.

The mobile version of the Alipay online payment service was rebranded Alipay Wallet, a mobile app not only for mobile payments but also for users’ daily lives, at the end of 2012. From then on the app began to add functions and features such as e-loyalty programs, e-ticketing, scanning-to-compare prices, credit card management, bookkeeping, and real-time information on stocks, among others.

It also has been expanding the payment service from online physical or virtual goods sales to the offline world and service sector. Alipay Wallet now supports payments for taxi fares and public transportation; it’s available at vending machines, convenience stores, department stores, pharmacies, hospitals, parking lots, etc.

When it comes to technologies, Alipay Wallet supports payments through QR Code, acoustic, and fingerprint. And the company is working on other methods.

Alipay Wallet has become a competitor to Tencent’s WeChat in terms of mobile commerce and mobile content. One year ago Alipay Wallet added a layer for third-party businesses, which is similar to WeChat’s public account platform. Services like DDMap, an e-coupon service Alibaba has a stake in, and iReader, a mobile reading service, have been available on Alipay Wallet.

More than 60 APIs were released one month ago that enable third-party developers to create more applications on top of Alipay Wallet. Xinxiwang Shuangfeng, a provider of dairy products, has integrated into Alipay Wallet and is now selling bottled milk on it.

Alipay Wallet began expanding to markets outside mainland China earlier this year.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

VentureBeat is studying mobile marketing automation. Chime in, and we’ll share the data. is a B2B e-commerce company. Alibaba’s primary business is to serve as a directory of Chinese manufacturers connecting them to other companies around the world looking for suppliers. According to iResearch, it was the lar… read more »

The evolution of Chinese Internet cafes

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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The evolution of Chinese Internet cafes

Above: Internet cafes helped spread the love of tech far and wide.

As personal computer ownership in China has grown dramatically in the past decade or so, a majority of Chinese Internet users don’t have to visit Internet cafes for services like chatting and shopping anymore. Today, most people in a Chinese Internet cafe are playing games, for the specs of their computers home are not so good for gaming or playing games ignores their families.

In the “good old days”, Chinese Internet cafes had some special revenue sources. Apart from charging a time-based fee for using a computer, the Chinese Internet cafes also make money through advertising or commissions from third-party services such as search service Baidu, or gaming companies like Shanda.

Chinese gaming company Shanda came up with the idea of selling points used for in-game purchases at Internet cafes, and developed a system for them to sell points online. Previously points had been sold by certain distributors or at newsstands. In 2002 when Shanda had 60 percent of China’s online gaming market, 65 percent of the point sales were through thousands of Internet cafes (source in Chinese).

Baidu shared revenues from search marketing and advertising on (browser startup page) with Internet cafes who set its search service or Hao123 the default option all of their computers. It was said that a considerable traffic of Baidu’s was from Internet cafes.

Companies like Shanda and Baidu made money from Internet cafes by sharing some revenue sources with them. There were some other companies that made money directly from Internet cafes. Hangzhou Shunwang Technology sells customized desktop software and other management systems.

Services like Shunwang also part of some advertising programs such as Baidu’s; for instance, it set Baidu Search as the default search option on the desktop software sold to Internet cafes.

Wang Yu Wang Ka (WYWK), a Chinese Internet cafe chain that started operations in 1998, announced “version 4.0″ with a fancy press event recently. We’ve barely heard of “versions” of an Internet cafe or a launch event for a version in China. It seems it wants to make a big change.

There were, actually, no big differences between the first three versions of WYWK cafes, as introduced by its website. The differences are in the computers, loyalty programs, decorations of the cafes, or the drinks and snacks available. Version 3.0 cafes introduced iMac.

The 4.0 version, besides a new decoration design, has introduces self designed hardware (desktop display, keyboard and mouse), and a customized desktop software and a mobile app.

Similar to the desktop operating systems Shunwang sells, the WYWK’s has both customized features and a lot of ad space. The WYWK’s offers an app store, Cloud storage service, and a user account system enabling users to access the same personalized features or content at any WYWK cafe. It now can make all the advertising revenues which previously should share with third parties like Shunwang.

WYWK Desktop Sotware

The mobile app makes it even better a business than Shunwang’s. The app allows users to pay fees, choose seats, and see and chat/group-chat with people nearby.

Pre-pay Fees with WYWK Mobile App

WYWK has had 204 stores, with two in Canada and Australia, respectively. It has had 2.6 million members and expects 15 million person-times by year end, according to the company.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

Hardware accelerator Haxlr8r: These are the kind of projects we do not accept

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Hardware accelerator Haxlr8r: These are the kind of projects we do not accept

Above: Benjamin Joffe at the 2014 TechCrunch China/TechNode Conference.

Image Credit: TechNode

Benjamin Joffe, General Partner at hardware accelerator HAXLR8R, took the stage of 2014 TechCrunch China/TechNode event this week, saying there’re a dozen of categories of hardware projects they don’t accept.

Based in Shenzhen, China, HAXLR8R is an accelerator for hardware device makers, offering seed fund, office space and mentorship. Since the first batch in 2012, some 50 projects have graduated from the program, with about 30 from the U.S., 10 from Europe and 10 from Asia (8 from China).

HAXLR8R has offices in both Shenzhen, the long-time manufacturing center in China, and San Francisco. The team include about 50 experts and mentors, and a marketing team of ten. The experts and mentors with HAXLR8R would help startups improve their products.

Now Shenzhen has become a must place for makers to visit or live in, for there are all kinds of low-cost electronics parts, factories, and experienced experts who can tell you whether your hardware design is feasible at all. HAXLR8R Launch Day, however, is hosted in San Francisco in order to draw attention from the Western media and audiences.

Like most hardware startups, products with HAXLR8R launch on Kickstarter for early funding and adopters.

The projects HAXLR8R doesn’t accept, according to Joffe, include,

  • EASYware which is too easy to make or copy; for instance, a bunch of copies of Pressy emerged in China before the latter shipped its own product.
  • SAMEware which doesn’t differentiate enough; for instance, smart watches or activity tracking gadgets.
  • FUNware which is interesting, but there’s no business.
  • NICHEware for which there’s a very small market.
  • Other types of hardware projects HAXLR8R doesn’t want to support, by their definition, are FUTUREware, ARTware, VAPORware, LOCALware, SOLUTIONware, LAMEware, LATEware, BOREware and FAILware.

HAXLR8R was founded by Sean O’Sullivan and Cyril Ebersweiler who previously founded China Accelerator, a seed funding program, in 2009. China Accelerator, based in Shanghai now, is focused on software projects.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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KDDI’s Open Innovation Fund invests in 4 U.S. startups, will bring them to the Japanese market

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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KDDI’s Open Innovation Fund invests in 4 U.S. startups, will bring them to the Japanese market
Image Credit: Shutterstock

KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), managed by Japanese venture capital Global Brain Corporation, announced that it has invested a total of 800 million yen (roughly $8 million) in four U.S. startups. Global Brian and KDDI, the Japanese telecom operator, will help those startups to enter Japanese market.

The four startups are social learning platform Edmodo, digital publishing and sharing service Issuu, seat upgrades app Pogoseat, and tech media business VentureBeat.

Disclosure: Yes, you read that right. And no, we don’t get anything in return for publishing this post.

Global Brian and KDDI established the first KOIF in 2012. KDDI lets investees access its user base or take advantage of the telecom infrastructure it operates. The startups also can join the acceleration programs ran by Global Brain.

The first fund, or KOIF I, has invested in 24 tech startups, with 15 Japanese and nine from outside Japan. The aforementioned investments in the four U.S. startups are under KOIF II, which was only recently established.

KOIF II plans to invest up to 5 billion yen ($50 million) into domestic or overseas tech startups that “can lead innovations in the integration of the Internet with our personal and commercial physical lives.”

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

24 million Internet-connected TV Sets Sold in China in 2013: iResearch Report

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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24 million Internet-connected TV Sets Sold in China in 2013: iResearch Report
Image Credit: dailin /

In 2013, 23.97 million Internet-connected TV sets were sold in China, according to the latest report released by Chinese research firm iResearch. The Internet-connected TV sets include both smart TVs installed with an operating system and traditional TVs that can get connected to Internet-enabled devices and display the contents from those devices.

Source: iResearch

iResearch estimates that Internet-enabled TVs as a percentage will continue to grow as the household broadband penetration rate is increasing and device makers are heavily promoting their products.

The competition in the smart TV market has been driving down prices. LeTV, currently the leading smart TV and online video provider, now sells a smart TV model at a price less than 1000 yuan (about $160).

However, it’s not that Chinese users can enjoy whatever is available on their PCs or other connected devices on their smart TVs or through set-top boxes. SARFT, the Chinese state administration for film, television, and other content only allows seven enterprises to provide videos for set-top boxes or smart TVs. None of the seven is as popular as video sites such as Youku-tudou, iQiyi, and LeTV.

Last week, the SARFT issued a notice asking set-top boxes such as Alibaba’s Tmall Box to stop providing those popular video services. A couple of days later, the SARFT launched an operating system for smart TV. It’s unknown whether it will require all the smart TV makers to adopt it. It is believed the operating system cannot be as well developed as those by experienced Internet companies such as Xiaomi and LeTV.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

Under pressure: Alibaba rushes out its Internet-of-things platform before its looming IPO

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Under pressure: Alibaba rushes out its Internet-of-things platform before its looming IPO

Alibaba, which is about to make the world’s largest-ever IPO, seems to have a hand in every game. But there’s one area where it comes up lacking — and its competitors have taken good advantage., one of the largest online retailers and marketplaces in China, is launching a could-based service for smart hardware today, as we reported earlier. JD launched an app that will be able to control all the smart devices by manufacturers who adopt the communication protocols and sign up to its services. JD has had many Chinese electronics manufacturers on board that include Haier, TCL, Huawei, Lenovo, and Haisense.

We heard a while ago that Aliyun, the cloud services division of Alibaba Group, was developing services similar to those offered by JD+, an initiative to support smart hardware makers and their products which is referred to by JD as an incubation program. Today Aliyun showed us this website which is called Ali-Internet-of-things platform, or Alink.

Similar to JD’s, Alibaba’s service offers up its marketing and distribution channels, tech support for app development, and, of course, cloud services served under the Aliyun brand. What different offerings Alibaba has include Alipay, one the most popular online payment services in China, and the Taobao login/identity management system. Alibaba also touts that makers using their services will be able to use location data from AutoNavi, the mapping company acquired by Alibaba, and weather data through the partnership with the state weather authority, which are not available with JD.

But so far, when it comes to Internet of things and connected devices tech, all Alibaba has is a website.

JD, on the other hand, has become one of the first online retail platforms makers from China and overseas would turn to as it has proven ability to help sell products. JD has invested in WiFi solution provider Broadlink and some products to help them grow.

Before this Alink project, Alibaba reached partnership with Chinese home appliances makers such as Midea and TCL, who said they’d use Aliyun’s cloud services.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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Chinese cloud provider UCloud brings in $50M to expand into North America

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Chinese cloud provider UCloud brings in $50M to expand into North America

Above: The newly open-source InfiniSQL database is intended to run fast on lots of servers.

Chinese cloud provider UCloud announced $50 million in funding led by Bertelsmann Asia Investments and Legend Capital. DCM, which participated in UCloud’s previous round of $10 million together with Bertelsmann, also participated in the new round.

UCloud, founded in 2012 by former Tencent executives, is specialized in game hosting and related cloud services. This round of funding will be used for building a data center in North America and BGP data centers.

UCloud now hosts and serves some of the top revenue-generating games in China. A data center has been in place in Hong Kong to help Chinese games who have users in Southeast Asia. The data center in North America is expected to serve users of Chinese games in that region.

Company management told TechNode earlier this year that UCloud will eventually go public in the U.S.

The post Chinese Cloud Service Provider UCloud Raised US$50M in Series B to Expand to North America appeared first on TechNode.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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Chinese investors like clone makers: PICOOC picks up $21M Series B

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Chinese investors like clone makers: PICOOC picks up $21M Series B

Above: PICOOC’s Latin is a smart scale much like the Fitbit Aria.

Image Credit: PICOOC video

PICOOC, the Beijing, China-based health-tracking device maker, has finished a Series B round of funding that raised $21 million, led by existing investor Gobi Partners and joined by Tencent and

The company’s flagship product is Latin, a Fitbit Aria-like smart scale. The team was developing a couple of more products when I visited it last September.

The scale is sold for RMB449 ($72) on and has joined JD+, the smart hardware incubation program run by the leading Chinese online retailer.

JD+ offers services ranging from Cloud storage to marketing support and also makes investments in some products they think promising. Before PICOOC, JD had invested in Broadlink, a Smart Home WiFi solution developer and consumer-facing product maker that has reached deals with smart device maker Xiaomi and Chinese traditional home appliance manufacturers.

JD also has a site devoted to smart hardware, launched much earlier than Amazon’s, that boosted sales for many such as Misfit Shine.

PICOOC isn’t the only product in China that is similar to Fitbit Aria. Another well-known player, RySmart, has not only cloned Aria but also some other Fitbit products.

Like what has been happening in China, investors don’t care whether they are copycats. RySmart has disclosed a Series A round of funding for an undisclosed amount. It is rumored that investors in RySmart include Cai Wensheng, the legendary Chinese angel investor.

Earlier this month Fitbit’s own products officially landed in China. Like everyone else, Chinese or not, its products are available on and FunTalk retail stores — so it’s equally convenient for Chinese users to purchase. Also, Fitbit ones are sold in Apple retail stores.

The core competence of Chinese products is always price. Fitbit Aria is more than twice the price of Latin and Ryfit, the scale made by RySmart. I heard that those Chinese players were to lower their prices even further.

But when it comes to health products, it’s hard to say price is powerful at all. There’re at least two mentalities in China in favor of Fitbit: (1) The higher the prices, the better — particularly when it comes to medical and healthcare products; (2) High-tech brands from Western developed countries are generally better than the local ones.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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Alibaba’s mapping service AutoNavi talks monetization plans

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Alibaba’s mapping service AutoNavi talks monetization plans
Image Credit: AutoNavi

AutoNavi, the Chinese mapping company Alibaba Group has fully acquired, made its monetization plans quite clear at the 2014 World Geospatial Developers Conference (WGDC): (1) transaction-based commissions from third parties who use its data and solutions; (2) enabling services on its platform to trade user data and take commissions.

AutoNavi has been introducing offline stores or third-party services onto its map-based marketplace, hoping to build a Taobao-style platform. Taxi booking apps, house cleaning service Gviva, moving & house cleaning service Taskp, real estate service Homelink and many others have been on the platform. Alibaba also has built marketplaces for offline stores, from group-buying to online restaurant booking, so that it has data about those merchants.

AutoNavi has launched application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) for online services or mobile apps to use its data. The company will launch a solution that enables those aforementioned services to take payments (possibly through Alipay) and create routes for users — It’s already possible on Alipay for users to search for stores nearby, find routes on AutoNavi’s Amap, and, of course, make payments.

The company plans to take commissions from orders generated through the solution, according to Tian Mi, GM at AutoNavi’s LBS open platform and data division, who spoke at WGDC. What’s interesting is the marketplaces run by Alibaba, now AutoNavi’s parent company, don’t take transaction-based commissions but have been making big profits through in-market advertising.

Taxi Booking Service on AutoNavi Amap

Taxi Booking Service on AutoNavi Amap

AutoNavi said it was also developing a solution for third-party services to share their user data, hoping to taking transaction-based commissions too.

We heard that UC Web, which has been fully acquired by Alibaba, will be overseeing the LBS division of Alibaba, which means AutoNavi will be under the new UC business group of Alibaba. UC Web has been monetizing its mobile browser through search marketing, display ads, gaming, among others. We’ll see what former UC Web management think of the monetization plans.

The post Alibaba’s Mapping Service AutoNavi Talks Monetization Plans appeared first on TechNode.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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JPush does paid push notifications — but its big opportunity is in data collection

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JPush does paid push notifications — but its big opportunity is in data collection

Notification push for apps has disrupted the mass message services ran by telecom operators in China.

Chinese operators charge every single message sent by businesses to their customers, which could add up to millions. That cost, to businesses who have developed mobile apps, now has been reduced to zero through push services like JPush.

JPush is a push notification service that helps Android, iOS, and Windows Phone apps push notifications to their users. JPush basic services, no matter how many notifications, are free of charge. And the free offerings include way more than just delivering notifications.

An analytics service is included; it shows metrics such as how many users have opened a pushed message and how long they stay in an app after they click open it through the message. Even better, app owners are able to push notifications to targeted users based on gender, age group, location, smartphone model, and so on – depending, of course, on how much information users allow an app to access.

Premium services are also available for businesses that want to send rich media content or dedicated technical support. JPush now counts among its paying customers global brands who have well-established presence in China.

But to Upas Wang, CEO of JPush, a better business opportunity is in all the data the company has been collecting. Similar to other mobile app-facing services, JPush will be able to offer analytics or cross-promotional marketing services by the time a large number of apps are using its services. It currently serves around 50,000 apps.

JPush isn’t the only one in this business. Getui is its direct competitor that was founded around the same time as JPush. Other big Chinese Internet companies, including Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba’s Umeng are offering push notification services to apps using their developer-facing services.

But JPush believes apps, especially those run by businesses, will use independent push services — because what big companies want to offer lines up with JPush’s offerings perfectly, while independent startups are motivated to create more offerings of their own, such as analytics services.

What’s interesting and differentiating JPush from others is it is powering some newly emerged smart gadgets. For some with small screens or simple functions, push notifications are one of the most important features.

If JPush will be able to collect user behavior data from those devices, the analytic results will be very useful. Chinese search giant Baidu has built a platform for smart devices, offering them cloud storage and other services, in order to have them upload user data there and eventually generate analytic results.

This story originally appeared on

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These smart headphones sound better than Beats & let you chat with musicians

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These smart headphones sound better than Beats & let you chat with musicians
Image Credit: Gary Chen

Gary Chen, a serial entrepreneur in China’s music industry, never believed digital music content could be a significant revenue source for musicians.

But fans who’d buy anything related to stars they like can be a huge revenue stream. So Chen wants to help musicians worldwide bytaking advantage of the mobile Internet and smart hardware trend to engage the willing payers.

Half a year after its founding, his company is launching VOW, an Android-powered smart headphone, and StarChat, a mobile app for musicians to interact with their fans.

China, piracy, music, & money

Although Chen isn’t a believer in digital content sales, he once had confidence in online advertising.

He is well known for managing, after two years of effort, to convince the major global labels to offer free digital music downloads in mainland China through Google China’s music search service, which was launched in March 2009.

The search results returned by the Google music search would direct users to, an online music site run by Chen’s team and funded by Google China, to download authorized digital tracks., in return, shared advertising revenues generated from Google AdSense with labels or other music rights holders., launched in 2006, was one of the first in mainland China to offer legitimate digital music — and so far, the only one with such a business model. The deal with Google China was remarkable back then, when digital music piracy was the norm here. Google China’s direct competitor, Baidu, now the dominant search engine in China, would continue to deliver pirated digital songs for several more years.

Google China retreated from mainland China in 2010 and pulled the plug on music search in September 2012. suffered drastic decline in both traffic and advertising revenue. The site was closed in 2013.

Many Chinese online music services have been, since they started paying digital music rights not very long ago, struggling to survive with advertising as a major revenue source. We saw a wave of consolidation in the past year or so. But Chen doesn’t think his model has proved a failure given Google’s moves.

Post-Google: New apps, new hardware

Many online services have tried to help musicians reach users directly so as to get rid of all the distribution channels and pocket all the money that used to go to those channels., a Chinese online streaming and download service, built a peer-to-peer marketplace for digital music transactions. Xiami struggled to pay music rights before it was acquired by Alibaba Group about one year ago.

Chen thinks the problem with service like Xiami is users wouldn’t pay for music content at all in China – a fact that holds true in many other markets.

So the whole idea of the StarChat app is to help musicians reach fans directly and make money from somewhere else. The direct communication with stars, Chen reckons, must encourage fans to purchase all kinds of goods, physical or virtual, created by stars or just sold by them.

The idea actually, to some extent, has been proven to work. Purchases of virtual gifts to singers on online singing services contributed about half of the total revenues in China’s online music market in 2013.

It works like the WeChat Subscription Account system. Fans are able to subscribe to a musician’s account and receive messages of various formats from the musician.


StarChat will support Alipay in mainland China and Paypal outside China for mobile payments. StarChat also includes a feature that shows metrics of fans and income. The the iOS version is waiting for Apple’s approval and the Android one is about to launch.


Android-powered VOW Headphone


The goal of VOW, according to Gary, is to provide higher sound quality than Beats headphone and be smart.

Today, it’s really not difficult to find the best manufacturers in such a manufacturing country in order to beat Beats in sound quality (Beats headphones are made in China) or build a hardware product loaded with Android. VOW, nevertheless, is the first of its kind.

VOW’s Android-powered brain is a separate part that can be attached to one side of the headphone. There are four pre-installed apps: VOW settings, a music streaming app (Douban FM for mainland China and Pandora for markets outside China), WeChat, and StarChat. With these, you can listen to streaming music, chat with WeChat friends, or interact with your fans or musicians. When WiFi connection isn’t available, you’ll also be able to use it by putting in a SIM card or loading songs an 8GB drive can hold.

Like on most Android-powered small screen devices, apps on VOW are not customized for a smaller screen but are half-size versions of them for average smartphones.

VOW lands on Kickstarter today and will begin taking pre-orders in China on April 28. Already, Chen has sold some 200 pieces to Amazon China. When it comes to prices, it will be a little bit more expensive than Beats outside China but less expensive in China.

VOWs are now available in ivory and light gold. More custom designs will be made for certain celebrities later on. Gary plans to get those celebrities sell the headphones on StarChat, promising to share a percentage of sales revenues with them. Their adopting StarChat will encourage fans to sign up for the app, too.

Chen said he’d develop more music hardware products if this one performs well. The combination of StarChat and VOW gadgets seems like an ideal model — and near to where the iPod started.

Last week, Li Yuchun, one of the most famous pop singers in China, debuted her latest single on Weibo, the most popular microblogging platform here, charging 2 yuan ($0.30) for a download. It’s similar to StarChat’s model in that fans can follow her and are able to purchase goods directly provided by her.

Chen doesn’t think it will last because, he says, the user experience isn’t good. For one thing, users have to visit a third-party website, the artist’s business partner, to download and make payments.


This story originally appeared on TechNode.

Chinese giant launches a smart-hardware accelerator

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Chinese giant launches a smart-hardware accelerator
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Chinese online retail giant has become one of the first distributors that smart-hardware makers would turn to when they are about to ship products.

When the maker revolution was about to explode, JD established a sub-channel for selling smart hardware products only. Then, the company launched JD+, an accelerator for smart hardware products, offering funding, marketing support, and other resources to which individual makers would otherwise have scant access.

More recently, the JDCloud project was added to provide makers with WiFi or sensor solutions, cloud services, user data analytics service, among others.

Some user data on the platform, according to the company, will be made open for third parties to build applications or services. JD also promised to share its VMNO (virtual mobile network operator) capabilities with makers, since it is one of the first private companies that have obtained VMNO licenses in China.

Smart hardware developers will also be able to implement JD’s user account system.This means that end users will be able to control all their smart gadgets from one app. And of course, JD gets the longer end of the stick, as the company will have all the users’ data.

Broadlink is a case of a hardware maker taking good advantage of JD’s offerings. The smart home “appcessory” maker now is selling products on JD and has announced funding from the company.

JD said many traditional home electronics manufacturers have signed up.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

WeChat ramps up m-commerce offerings with a flight booking service

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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WeChat’s m-commerce offerings has added flight booking service that is provided by (formerly, a Chinese online travel service Tencent has a stake in.

Payments, of course, are supported by WeChat Payment.




After purchasing a ticket, you’ll be able to receive flight status notifications or other information by subscribing to LV’s WeChat official account.

Right now, it’s only available for users in two Chinese cities: Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Not only more cities but also other online booking services run by will be added later on, the company says.

So far, there have been a dozen categories of m-commerce offerings on WeChat, under My Band Cards channel, that enable users to purchase all kinds of goods or services (see below). So it’s possible the booking services for sightseeing tickets or hotels, which currently are absent, will be added later.



This story originally appeared on TechNode.

WeChat opens its image-recognition tech to the public

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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WeChat opens its image-recognition tech to the public
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Several months, ago WeChat launched a voice open platform for third parties to add capabilities such as speech recognition and speech-to-text conversion into their WeChat accounts.

An image recognition SDK has been released this week.

Since the 5.0 version, which was launched in August last year, WeChat has been able to recognize books, music albums, or other goods by scanning covers or packages. The result pages of some goods also include links that will direct you to e-commerce sites for purchase.

Now WeChat makes it available for third parties to add the image recognition capability into their WeChat accounts. For instance (see below), after scanning a book cover, you’ll be able to read reviews from Douban Books, one of most popular platforms for book ratings and reviews in China, or buy the book from, an online retailer.


The service will be free. WeChat said the imaging SDK will be more powerful later on.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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Cheetah Mobile Files for its IPO on the NYSE to raise $300M

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Cheetah Mobile Files for its IPO on the NYSE to raise $300M
Image Credit: Rolf Kleef/Flickr

Kingsoft Corporation announced two months ago that it would spin off a business unit for Internet security and other services and list its shares in the U.S. Now, the spinoff, Cheetah Mobile, has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a splashy U.S. IPO

Formerly known as “Kingsoft Network” in China, the company developed a web browser called Cheetah. Cheetah Mobile plans to raise $500 million on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the past few years, Cheetah has successfully adopted the business model of Qihoo, a security service that piloted the free-with-ads model in China.

Actually, a handful of Chinese Internet companies that offer free Internet services, including the biggest Chinese input method service provider Sogou, adopted Qihoo’s model. They’d channel users of their free software to a web browser and monetize mainly through search marketing and other advertising means, and online gaming.

81.7 percent of the total revenues by Cheetah Mobile in 2013 was from advertising, and the rest was from gaming, according to the company’s prospectus.

Kingsoft acquired Conew, aka Keniu, an Internet security and photo editing service provider in 2010 and merged it into its own anti-virus business. The acquisition of Conew was seen as a strategy of Kingsoft to fight against Qihoo, which disrupted the China’s Internet security market by making its paid security service free.

Like Qihoo, the combination of Conew and Kingsoft’s anti-virus business would offer their services for free, develop a web browser Cheetah and expand overseas.

As Qihoo had been dominating in online security and web browser markets in China, Kingsoft thought there might be a chance to beat it overseas.

While Qihoo launched an English version of its flagship security service and bought a stake in a Brazilian security product, Kingsoft stealthily launched Clean Master, an Android storage management app in 2012. At the end of 2013, Sheng Fu announced the free app had had more than 100 million installs.

Moreover, we learned from mobile advertising and other service providers that the company has spent a large amount of money acquiring overseas users since its launch. Now, Clean Master is trying to gain users in the domestic market.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.


Former Facebooker builds Bibao, a Chinese app for virtual/crypto currency traders

This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat

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Former Facebooker builds Bibao, a Chinese app for virtual/crypto currency traders
Image Credit: Flickr

Bihang, a China-based digital currency application developer, today launched Bibao for Android, a mobile app for Bitcoin and Litecoin exchanges.

With Bibao, which is similar a stock market app, you’ll be able to:

  • watch exchange rates of Bitcoin or Litecoin on major Chinese virtual currency exchanges and historical charts.
  • trade with any of those exchanges within the app — Bibao doesn’t, at least so far, charge transaction-based fees.
  • check your balance (in both BTC and CNY) and trading record.
  • set up and receive price alerts.
  • read news about Bitcoin/Litecoin across the Chinese Web.


Screeshots of Bibao for Android

 Screenshots of Bibao for Android

Before Bibao, the startup developed a Bitcoin wallet and a web-based trading platform. There have been many exchanges for Bitcoin and other newly emerged digital currencies in China, but Bihang is one of the few developing applications on top of them.

Bihang was co-founded in 2013 by Changhao Jiang, former research scientist at Facebook, and Hao Wang, who used to work at Goldman Sachs on transactional technologies. Prior to the founding of Bihang, the two were building their own startups separately, with Jiang working on an online-to-offline service while Wang worked on a mobile health app.

Thanks to their matchmaker, Feng Li, a partner at IDG Capital Partners who has led investments in Bitcoin starups like Coinbase and Chinese financial startups like Wacai, the two ended up building a startup together. IDG, of course, has invested in Bihang. And the startup is of the latest batch of Microsoft Accelerator China.

This story originally appeared on TechNode.

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