At Day 2 of the TechCrunch 2017 Conference taking place in Shenzhen, entrepreneurs from China’s leading startups, including many unicorns, shared their vision for their industries’ growth potential and the latest developments taking place.
- Wei Zhang, CTO of Meitu—a global innovator in mobile video and photography, including beauty-themed photo and video apps—shared his vision to expand the company’s beauty ecosystem to providing skincare consultation. When users take a selfie, the app will collect data and provide a diagnosis of their skin’s health using artificial intelligence (AI).
- The Fung Global Retail & Technology team interviewed Joe Xia, the Co-Founder and CTO of one of China’s largest bicycle-sharing startups Mobike, who shared the startup’s plans to leverage data to help governments make more informed decisions in urban planning.
- Ted Livingston, Founder and CEO of messaging app Kik, talked about the company’s plans for an initial coin offering (ICO)—a newly popularized method of fundraising—and the introduction of its cryptocurrency, Kin, to foster commerce in its community. Kik seeks to become the WeChat of the West.
Day 2 Of The Techcrunch 2017 Shenzhen Conference
Fung Global Retail & Technology attended the TechCrunch 2017 Conference in Shenzhen on Day 2, the two days that the keynote presentations took place. The major themes that we garnered from Day 2 of the conference included:
- Meitu: Wei Zhang, CTO of Meitu—a global innovator in mobile video and photography, including beauty-themed photo and video apps—shared his vision to expand the company’s beauty ecosystem to providing skincare consultation. When users take a selfie, the app will collect data and provide a diagnosis of their skin’s health using artificial intelligence (AI).
- Mobike: The Fung Global Retail & Technology team interviewed Joe Xia, the Co-Founder and CTO of one of China’s largest bicycle-sharing startups Mobike, who shared the startup’s plans to leverage data to help governments make more informed decisions in urban planning.
- Kik: Ted Livingston, Founder and CEO of messaging app Kik, talked about the company’s plans for an initial coin offering (ICO)—a newly popularized method of fundraising—and the introduction of its cryptocurrency, Kin, to foster commerce in its community. Kik seeks to become the WeChat of the West.
Meitu—Ai And The App Ecosystem
Zhang Explained how Meitu has created an ecosystem around beauty through a portfolio of software and hardware offerings, and shared his vision to provide skin diagnosis for users through AI technology. Meitu is a Chinese company that created a photo-editing app that was first introduced as a selfie app in 2008, a time when most Western smartphones were designed for video calls rather than taking selfies. The company started manufacturing smartphones in 2013.
We summarize the key takeaways from Zhang’s presentation below:
- Meitu targets to expand its ecosystem to include providing skin consultation: When users take a selfie, the app will collect data and provide diagnosis of their skin’s health through AI.
- AI is the next frontier for providing solutions to everyday problems, according to Zhang. Meitu’s MakeupPlus app provides advice on which makeup style best suits a user when paired with different outfits.
- Catering to cultural nuances and localizing app functions is vital for overseas expansion: Meitu fine-tuned its products according to user preferences and the cultural nuances of the end market, down to deciding on the skin color. For example, Chinese, Japanese and Korean women all prefer fair skin. However, while Japanese prefer fair skin akin to a geisha, Chinese prefer to have fair skin and rosy cheeks. In contrast, Western women do not prefer fair skin tone. The most popular feature among American users is the ability to turn selfies into anime-style photos, which catapulted the app to the top-10 most-popular apps in the App Store’s photo and video category.
- Zhang sees more near-term business applications for AR than VR technology: He is most positive about advertising with augmented reality (AR) and expects commercial applications of virtual reality (VR) to take longer to mature. Meitu has established a joint laboratory with HiScene, a leading Chinese AR technology provider. In his view, VR is an example of a good technology not necessarily being a good product.
- His vision is for Meitu to be able to understand a user’s preferences by analyzing an uploaded photo: With the support of AI technology, he expects the app to be able to analyze users’ preferences—ranging from culinary and fashion to aesthetics and health.
Mobike—Bicycle-Sharing and the IoT Economy
Xia shared his vision to harness the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve traffic conditions in cities. Mobike announced that it has raised $600 million in a Series E funding round led by Tencent to fund its overseas expansion. The bicycle-rental company currently operates over 5 million bicycles serving 100 million users in more than 100 cities globally. Its main presence is in tier 1 and tier 2 cities in China. Elsewhere, Mobike recently launched its business in Singapore and Manchester in the UK.
Below, we summarize the key points from Xia’s presentation:
- Globalization: Mobike targets to expand its presence to 200 cities globally by the end of this year. Xia regards the company’s relationship with local governments as the most important in terms of executing its overseas expansion strategy. To overcome local regulatory requirements, Mobike primarily cooperates with local governments to launch bicycle-rental programs.
- He believes the future of bicycle sharing is data-driven IoT, and Mobike has been expanding its IoT initiative: Many Chinese cities face problems such as pollution and congestion which can be alleviated by bicycle sharing.
- He sees the user experience as the most important factor, and Mobike is using demand-forecasting techniques and a reward system to better pair demand and supply: For example, Mobike rewards users with red packets for returning a bike to a location with high demand.
- He believes technology is the backbone of Mobike, which is constantly innovating to optimize the user experience: Mobike is researching longer-distance transportation methods that travel further than bicycles. It is also considering installing USB chargers on its bicycles. The company currently has a technical team of several hundred staff. It plans to hire professionals from Silicon Valley and set up overseas research centers.
- Mobike seeks to leverage data to help governments make more informed decisions in urban planning: The company is cooperating with Chinese and international research institutions to analyze the data on its platform, which reaches 20 terabytes (TB) every seven days.
Kik—Using Cryptocurrencies as an Alternative Fundraising Model
Livingston shared his vision for the messaging app. Kik has been growing rapidly since its launch in 2010 when it accumulated 100 million registered users within the first 15 days of launch.
Kik has been backed by Tencent, which provided US$50 million in funding in 2015 to help Kik become the WeChat of the West.
Below, we summarize the key points from Livingston’s presentation:
- The WeChat of the West: Livingston’s vision is for Kik to become an instant-messaging platform that is integrated into users’ everyday lives. He aims to develop Kik into a commerce platform similar to WeChat, in which users can scan QR codes to buy items. In 2014, Livingston published an article “The Race to Become the WeChat of the West,” which detailed Kik’s vision to pursue the WeChat strategy by moving native apps outside chat to web apps inside chat.
- Kik is planning an initial coin offering (ICO) for its upcoming fundraising: Kik is introducing Kin, a cryptocurrency, into the community for users to earn and spend natively.
- He expects cryptocurrency ICOs to resemble dotcoms, with some companies making money and others losing: He expects some large organizations to emerge ahead of the pack, similar to Google and Amazon.
We maintain our positive view on Shenzhen’s startup ecosystem, which is premised on the strength of its young demographics, flexible supply chains and solid manufacturing operations. The Fung Global Retail & Technology team looks forward to reporting the highlights of the Shenzhen Innovation Tour, which concludes the 3-day event organized by TechCrunch.