Issue 21 | January 22, 2018

An Original: “Father of WeChat” Reveals Product Roadmap
At the WeChat Open Class PRO held in Guangzhou on January 15, WeChat founder Allen Zhang (Zhang Xiaolong) gave a keynote speech, during which he laid out WeChat’s product roadmap and explained the philosophies guiding its evolution. Here are our key takeaways from his speech.

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Key points:
  • WeChat now has 980 million monthly active users.
  • There are 580,000 mini-programs online, and 170 million users using mini-programs every day.
  • 95% of e-commerce platforms in China have created their own mini-programs on WeChat.
  • Tiao Yi Tiao (跳一跳, one of WeChat’s mini-games that went viral) is one of the most-played games ever, with over 100 million daily active players.
  • WeChat’s focus in 2018 will be helping users navigate the offline world.
  • WeChat is making its search more powerful.
  • WeChat will reintroduce its tipping feature and allow users to tip authors directly, after reaching a deal with Apple which had forced WeChat to take down the tipping feature.
  • WeChat will integrate its regular version with Enterprise WeChat.

Google Signs Patent Deal with Tencent
Google announced a patent cross-licensing agreement with Tencent. Under the agreement, both companies will have the freedom to access each other’s patent portfolios. Neither party will able to sue the other for infringing on patents.

Google recently opened an office in Shenzhen, which is home to Tencent.  Earlier this month, Google invested in the Chinese game streaming platform Chushou, a GGV portfolio company. In December, Google announced the opening of its new AI lab in Beijing.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Financial Times, China is on track to overtake Japan and the US to become the largest user of the international patent system within two years.

Patents league table

Muji Opens its First Hotel in Shenzhen

Muji, the Japanese retailer, opened its first hotel in the world in Shenzhen. Decorated with wooden furniture, the rooms designs follow Muji’s minimalist aesthetic. All products are supplied by Muji. The hotel features a gym, a Muji Diner, a 24-hour library, and three meeting rooms. The prices range from $150 to $400 per night.

Muji hotel Shenzhen

A second Muji hotel will open in Beijing in March, followed by a third one in Tokyo in the spring of 2019. Muji entered the China market in 2005, and has seen great success there, making China its largest international market with 200 stores.

In our opinion, Muji exemplifies a phenomenon known as “New Retail.” Read our explanation of what is New Retail.

Announcing the 996 Podcast

From Silicon Valley to Beijing, we interview the movers and shakers of China’s tech industry, as well as tech leaders with US-China cross-border perspectives. The show is co-hosted by Hans Tung and Zara Zhang of GGV Capital, and co-produced by The Sinica Podcast.

Last week, we released the first four episodes of this podcast:
Episode 1: Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo!
Episode 2: Andrew Ng, former chief scientist of Baidu
Episode 3: Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China
Episode 4: Liu Zhen, SVP of Toutiao and former head of Uber China
New episodes will be released every two weeks. Subscribe on iTunes to receive updates.

You can listen on iTunesGoogle PlayOvercastSoundCloudStitcher, the 996 website or SupChina website… Just search “996” in any podcast app.

– Hans & Zara at GGV Capital