Issue 3 | September 18, 2017

A Big Deal
The Chinese government plans to ban sales of fossil fuel cars entirely, an official announced last week. China currently has around 200 million cars, over 99% of which burn fossil fuel, making China the world’s largest market for electric vehicles. Following the announcement, many EV makers in China saw their stock prices rise.

A Number
87% – the percentage of China’s smartphone market that’s captured by domestic brands. Despite all the recent buzz about iPhoneX, the vast majority of Chinese people are using phones produced not by Apple, but by domestic phone-makers, according to Counterpoint Research.

China smartphone market

One reason for Apple’s decline in China might be that the iPhone’s steep prices put them out of reach for regular Chinese people: the new iPhoneX costs around $300 more in China than in the US. The price ($1483 for the 256GB phone) is almost double the average monthly salary in China. By comparison, Xiaomi’s latest Mi Mix 2 (announced just a day before iPhone’s release) costs $719,  around half of iPhone’s price.

A Picture

Weibo sticker screenshot

Sina Weibo (the Twitter of China) took the cigarette out of an emoji labeled “cool.” The head of Beijing Tobacco Control Association – as well as many Chinese netizens – praised the move, and suggested that Tencent do the same with WeChat and QQ emojis. An editorial on Xinhua said, “Nowadays, emojis are not just supplementing but also replacing words in interpersonal communication. Getting rid of the smoking emoji is a sign that we reject the normalization of smoking culture.”

A Quote

Background: In the last few years, Sina Weibo has been experiencing a dip in traffic due to the explosive growth of WeChat. However, many netizens in China have recently noticed a strong “comeback” of Weibo. Weibo now has 340 million monthly active users (compared to Twitter’s 328 million), and its revenue in 2016 was $650 million, a 70% year-on-year growth.

Cao Zenghui, VP at Sina Weibo, during a speech at Hundun University:
“Celebrities can attract a lot of traffic, but who can make the users stay? Not necessarily celebrities. When we encountered our bottleneck in 2013, we started to empower the medium- and small-size influencers and help them grow, and not just the top-ranking ones. This policy saved Weibo.”

A Buzzword
无人货架 Wú Rén Huò Jià (unmanned snack shelves)
Recently, the hottest investment target in China’s VC circle seems to be Wu Ren Huo Jia, or unmanned snack shelves located within offices. Customers can grab the snack and go, after scanning a QR code to pay. The target users are white-collar workers in office buildings. There are at least 30 startups producing these shelves, which collectively have received over 1 billion yuan in VC funding this year. Last week alone, three Wu Ren Huo Jia companies announced huge funding rounds.

Staffless shelves satisfy immediate cravings that e-commerce cannot meet, and ensure that employees – many of whom are overworked – can enjoy snacks anytime, 24 hours a day, without stepping out of their offices. Most of these companies have not revealed their shrinkage (percentage of goods that are stolen), but have said that it is not a concern because these are installed within offices with security cameras and people don’t want to appear dishonest in front of their coworkers.

Unmanned snack shelf Xing Bian Li
One of the companies producing unmanned snack shelves, Xing Bian Li

Another genre of startups in this field is smart, enclosed vending machines. GGV Capital’s China-based managing partner Eric Xu led our investment in Citybox, an innovative vending machine that sells snacks including fresh fruits. Users scan a QR code with their Alipay app to unlock the vending machine; once they take the food and close the door, the cost of the snacks is automatically deducted from user’s bank account.Citybox

A Commentary
Why might more high-speed trains lead to more unicorns in China? We decipher the implications of China’s transportation revolution within China’s tech industry here.
– Zara Zhang & Hans Tung at GGV Capital