WSJ

Bytedance Could be a Facebook Killer

Bytedance is going up, Facebook is going down, you do the math.

In spite of what the numbers tell you, China understands apps and the rise of Bytedance is one of the key points. Facebook may have more users, but the beginning of the decline of their users on their flagship App points to a changing of the guard.

The Attention Economy is Changing

Bytedance is superior in its ability to use AI to tailor content to our preferences. Its collection of apps that is rivaling Tencent at home, and will one day rival Facebook globally.

Consumers visit a booth for Bytedance Technology, which owns news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao and short video app Tik Tok, at the China International Software Expo in Beijing in June. PHOTO: CHINA STRINGER NETWORK/REUTERS

Most people in the west don’t even know who Bytedance is. They make the most viral apps in China today with the likes of Toutiao (“Headlines”) and Douyin (“Tik Tok”).

Last week, in August, 2018, they kicked off an equity-fundraising round that could value the owner of China’s most popular news-aggregation app at as much as $75 billion. This means they plan to raise between $2.5 and $3 Billion. This means they are the next-gen Media company of apps.

TechCrunch (Toutiao)

Not even a Chinese crackdown on content can deter Bytedance. I’ve been watching them for years now, and I think of all the Chinese companies trying to expand, they have among the biggest chance of getting it right in foreign markets and to one day dethrone Facebook worldwide. This is because their attention to the user experience with AI is unbeatable.

With such a valuation change, they would be bigger than Uber, even bigger than Didi. Bigger than Meituan Dianping that is another rising company in China that is destined for greatness.

For app-centric companies like Tencent, Facebook and Bytedance, increasing and decreasing trends matter a lot. Bytedance does viral content and retaining time on app significantly better than Facebook’s apps. Considering it’s a younger company, with better AI, in a more populated country — its prospects are good if China displaces the U.S. in the attention economy. There’s a fair chance it would be because of Bytedance. Surely the Chinese Government recognizes this.

  • The Beijing-based startup has grown as a significant 3rd player in China’s ecosystem, traditionally dominated by the likes of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.
  • Jinri Toutiao is China’s leading news aggregator app and even pulls Medium articles sometimes.
  • Douyin meanwhile is nothing short of the next era of Stories after Instagram. The teen app musical.ly merged into it after it was acquired.
  • When your audience is 800 million mobile-native Chinese consumers, becoming the biggest startup in the world is not out of the question!
  • If Bytedance can figure out localization it would, by 2025, be set to become the heir apparent to Facebook.

According to the WSJ, some Bytedance shares recently changed hands in private transactions at prices implying a valuation of around $62 billion. The reality is Bitmain Technologies, Meituan and Bytedance when they go IPO will all dwarf American startups — all easily moving ahead of Uber. This is the future of the world, guys, coming faster than we know. As an amateur futurist, this is the stuff I ponder 24/7. I’m pretty convinced that China is able to pick the winners and those will go on to have a leadership position in the world.

If Microsoft, Google and Facebook shaped the world in one generation, there will be another where instead it’s Tencent, Alibaba and Bytedance.

Byedance is just a 6-year-old firm. If it can do this so fast, what can it do in the next ten years? Facebook is a 14-year old delinquent company; surely the world can do better.

Reuters reports that the startup founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, Bytedance, is targeting a valuation of between $70 billion and $75 billion in the latest fundraising. The WSJ first broke the story on August 7, 2018.

What if the future today is written in China?

Tik Tok / Douyin