#Asia China’s 10 biggest investments in 2017


China saw a bit of a slowdown in startup funding in 2017, with the US$51.6 billion ploughed into tech companies lower than 2016’s US$53.9 billion, according to the Tech in Asia database.

Despite the drop, the average deal size grew, reaching a record US$31.9 million a pop.

Here are the 10 biggest tech investments of the year, starting at the lower end of the scale.

10th: Cainiao

  • US$799 million
  • Ecommerce logistics

Created by Alibaba in 2013 in partnership with 15 Chinese delivery companies, the spinoff firm was designed to speed up online shopping.

Photo credit: Alibaba

Alibaba initially had a small stake in Cainiao, but this latest investment bumps that up to 51 percent, giving it the majority interest.

9th: Mobike

  • US$815 million
  • Transportation

Mobike might’ve raised less than Ofo in 2017, but it still had a good year, matching its archrival’s tire print in reaching 200 cities around the globe.

Photo credit: luoxi / 123RF

Both Mobike and Ofo managed to squeeze out a few smaller Chinese rivals, with three competing startups collapsing in November.

Tencent and Foxconn are among Mobike’s investors.

8th: Ele.me

  • US$1 billion
  • Local services

Ele.me does food delivery using a fleet of electric scooters. At the latest count, the service claims to have 260 million users across 2,000 Chinese cities, ordering meals from 1.3 million restaurants.

Alibaba and its payment wing Ant Financial are rumored to have led this latest round, repeating the US$1.3 billion the online shopping giant threw at Ele.me in April 2016.

7th: Bytedance

  • US$1 billion
  • Media

You’ve probably never heard of Bytedance, which is fine because neither have most people in China. They do, however, know Toutiao, the startup’s smash-hit news app.

Pulling together news from around China’s “innernette”, Toutiao has 120 million readers each day who spend an average 74 minutes flicking through the app – double the time spent on Snapchat.

The startup last month acquired Musical.ly, adding the social network to its growing global media empire that includes Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

music, teens, millennials

A Musical.ly user performs. GIF by Tech in Asia, from video by The Best Musical.ly.

Bytedance is said to be worth around US$20 billion.

See: China’s most addictive news app eyes world domination with AI

6th: Koubei

  • US$1.1 billion
  • Local services

Koubei is yet another Alibaba spinoff. Jack Ma started it to ensure that his company doesn’t miss out on retail and restaurant spending.

Baked into its Alipay wallet app, the service combines local listings with deals. Although food is a big part of it, Koubei doesn’t do deliveries (in contrast to Ele.me and Meituan-Dianping, which are also on this list).

5th: Ofo

  • US$1.2 billion
  • Transportation

Just like Mobike, Ofo had a busy year with global expansion.

Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Didi Chuxing are among its investors.

4th: NIO

  • US$1.7 billion
  • Cars

After starting out as NextEV racing in the Formula E championship for electric single-seaters, NIO’s rebranding heralded the startup’s switch to being a proper automaker.

NIO this month unveiled its first production car, the ES8.

NIO, cars, electric cars

Photo credit: NIO

Starting at US$68,000, the electric SUV is a bold challenge to the luxo-barges so popular with China’s middle-class, such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. It’ll also go up against the Model X, although Tesla’s hyperspeed minivan costs twice as much. Now up for pre-order, the ES8 arrives sometime in the first half of 2018.

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu are among NIO’s backers.

3rd: Daikuan

  • US$2 billion
  • Finance

Here’s another unfamiliar name. Daikuan is part of China’s huge boom in online financial services – aka “fintech” – that includes an array of loans startups where ordinary people can earn interest from offering up their cash to borrowers.

Daikuan is different from most fintech startups in that it focuses only on loans for buyers of secondhand cars.

2nd: Meituan-Dianping

  • US$4 billion
  • Local services

This giant startup combines two sites – Meituan and Dianping – and does listings, deals, and deliveries, putting it on a collision course with Alibaba’s Koubei and Alibaba-backed Ele.me.

To make that rivalry even edgier, Tencent – Alibaba’s nemesis – is a major backer.

1st: Didi Chuxing

  • US$5.5 billion
  • Transportation

Even after getting money from Apple and forcing Uber to wave the white flag in 2016, Didi still managed to raise eyebrows this year with its US$5.5 billion in April – which at the time was the second biggest investment into a tech firm.

Apple's Tim Cook with Didi's Jean Liu, pictured in Beijing shortly after Apple's investment was announced. Photo credit: Tim Cook on Twitter.

Apple’s Tim Cook with Didi’s Jean Liu. Photo credit: Tim Cook’s Twitter

Didi repeatedly promised global expansion throughout the year, but that didn’t happen. Nonetheless, with the ride-hailing app said to be prepping a move into Brazil, 2018 could be the year that Didi steps onto the world stage to challenge Uber once again.

2017 in review - BANNER

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