Can a Mark Zuckerberg emerge from Asia, wondered VC veteran William Bao Bean this weekend. If so, his name is probably Tencent´s Allen Zhang, writes investor Andy Mok today in LinkedIn. Despite a stellar performance by Facebook, he puts his bets on WeChat.
As impressive as Facebook’s performance as been, Tencent’s WeChat actually has a brighter future and, I argue, this is largely due to the more compelling product vision (and execution ability) of Allen Zhang, who launched WeChat in 2011 and currently heads Tencent’s recently formed Wechat Group. As seen in the chart below, WeChat has massive market share in China and still grew MAU at 29% in the most recent quarter…
For those not yet familiar with WeChat (or weixin 微信 in Chinese), it started as China’s What’s App, a social messaging app. However, since its launch in 2011, WeChat has steadily added features and functionality to become the remote control for the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese. For example, a WeChat user in China can (and does) book a car ride (like Uber), transfer money (like PayPal), book plane or train tickets (like Expedia), buy goods online (like Amazon) and even make investments (like WealthFront) – but all without ever having to leave the WeChat app. Users can also use WeChat for booking doctor appointments, paying electricity fees or traffic fines. As of December 2015, WeChat has over a billion created accounts, 650 million monthly active users; with 70 million outside of China. Much more impressively, WeChat’s DAU is approximately 570 million giving it a jaw-dropping 88% DAU/MAU ratio.
As evidenced by its DAU/MAU ratio, WeChat actually has a much stickier app that it is operating at scale with hundreds of millions of users. This is because it is the first app to truly integrate online-offline capabilities of payment, e-commerce and a host of other functions that for many tech companies in the West, including Facebook, are still a somewhat far off vision.
One of the keys to WeChat’s success is Zhang’s ability to develop viral features to drive adoption and usage. A well-known example of this was the introduction of virtual red envelopes in Chinese New Year to leverage the tradition of offering monetary gifts during the biggest holiday in China. The introduction of this feature resulted in more than 200 million users linking their debit cards to their WeChat account and 32 billion virtual red envelopes being delivered this past Chinese New Year.
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