Tencent: Tech Giant that Can Rival Facebook and Amazon

Asia’s largest Internet company Tencent, which reached a market value of more than US$100 billion last September, is expanding its reach into international markets. Dorinda Elliott at Fast Company reports:

With one word in 2012, Tencent announced its philosophy of global expansion–and that word was “WeChat,” the friendly English name it gave its international version of Weixin. WeChat, an app with many of Weixin’s most popular chat functions, was marketed aggressively across Southeast Asia, and results were strong: It gained more than 100 million users outside China by last summer, and it was the second-most-downloaded app in India in 2013.

But despite WeChat not being so explicitly Chinese, the shadow of the Chinese government has followed it. India’s government has expressed concern that the app poses a “security threat.” Tibetan activists outside China tell their community to switch to other messaging services. Hu Jia, a Chinese dissident, who has claimed that Chinese officials knew about things that he had communicated only on WeChat, has called it “a monitoring weapon in your pocket.”

[…] For now, Tencent’s public moves in the U.S. tell a cautious tale of small-time acquisitions and investments. Mostly, the company seems interested in startups whose technologies might be useful to Tencent back home. It participated in a $22 million funding last fall for Plain Vanilla Games, which had just launched QuizUp, a super successful multi-user mobile quiz game. “Tencent has been less focused than other investors on strategies of prevaluation and growth multipliers and profit,” says Thor Fridriksson, Plain Vanilla’s founder. “They say, ‘Don’t worry about revenue right now; just focus on the user experience.'” [Source]

Read more on China’s surveillance of Tibet activists, Hu Jia’s and others’ suspicions of monitoring on WeChat, and a reported crackdown on the platform last month, via CDT.