#Asia Tencent’s biggest investments this year


Ma "Pony" Heating, Ma Huateng

Tencent CEO “Pony” Ma Huateng started up China’s social media and gaming giant in 1998. It’s now best known for the WeChat messaging app, which has over 800 million monthly active users. Photo credit: GMIC blog.

Tencent, China’s social media and gaming giant, maker of WeChat, had a storming 2016. It started out the year worth about US$180 billion and then gradually added US$40 billion as its smash-hit messaging app kept on adding hundreds of millions of new users.

In the midst of all that, Tencent invested in startups around the world, throwing around more cash than ever before. Here are the 10 biggest bets it made as found in the Tech in Asia Database.

10. Renrenche

  • Funding round: US$150 million
  • Country: China

As with all entries on this list, the funding round is the total ploughed in by all investors involved, not just Tencent’s contribution.

Renrenche, a used car trading app, has been the recipient of Tencent’s largesse before.

Car maintenance startup in China gets $10M funding as on-demand services explode

Photo credit: llee-wu.

“In most developed economies, sales of second-hand cars outnumber those of new vehicles by about two to one but the opposite is true in China, the world’s largest market for new vehicles,” reported the Financial Times in May. Renrenche is one of a number of startups – and tech giants – seeking to ride China’s boom in used car sales.

9. iCarbonX

  • Funding round: US$155 million
  • Country: China

This is the Chinese biotech startup valued at US$1 billion just months after being founded.

Wang Jun, the startup’s founder, was previously CEO of the Beijing Genomics Institute, the biggest gene-sequencing company in the world. “He started iCarbonX with the idea of using artificial intelligence and big data to create health management solutions and find medical breakthroughs, using a team that was a mix of biotech and AI/big data experts,” reported my colleague Charlie Custer in April.

8. Hike

  • Funding round: US$175 million
  • Country: India

Although Facebook and its adoptive WhatsApp dominate social media in India, this homegrown startup is fighting back with plenty of pluck – and a fistful of dollars.

Kavin Mittal Hike

Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike. Photo credit: Hike.

When I first talked to Hike’s Kavin Bharti Mittal – son of billionaire telco baron Sunil Bharti Mittal – shortly after the app’s tentative launch on Android in 2012, he said India needs something streamlined and which fits into how people there use their phones. So the messaging app partially made use of SMS.

Over time it has evolved, just as India’s consumers have done as they’ve leaped wholeheartedly into the smartphone era. Hike now offers video calls and even has live filters like Snapchat.

Hike snagged US$175 million series D in August.

Tencent has invested in other messaging apps in the past, such as Kik and Snap.

See: Is Hike on track to become the WeChat of India?

7. Douyu TV

  • Funding round: US$226 million
  • Country: China

There are dozens of apps riding China’s live streaming boom – and Douyu TV is one of them. Like Silicon Valley’s Kamcord (which Tencent also invested in this year), it focuses on mobile and PC gaming.

6. WePiao

  • Funding round: US$464 million
  • Country: China

Tencent has invested in WePiao before as the ticketing startup is an important partner in WeChat. Indeed, WePiao’s ticketing service is baked into the array of services in the “wallet” section of WeChat.

5. Bitauto

  • Funding round: US$550 million
  • Country: China

Another car-related bet by Tencent, Bitauto covers a lot of ground, from car news and listings to financing. This funding round is geared to boost Bitauto’s spin-off financing service, Yixin Capital.

4. Lianjia

  • Funding round: US$926 million
  • Country: China

With 6,000 shops and 120,000 employees, it’s arguably China’s biggest estate agent chain, connecting renters and buyers with homeowners. It started out in 2001.

Staff outside a Lianjia store.

Staff outside a Lianjia store. Photo credit: Lianjia’s Weibo.

It’s Asia’s biggest new unicorn this year, valued at US$6.2 billion.

See: 16 new startup unicorns that took flight in 2016

3. China Internet Plus

  • Funding round: US$3.3 billion
  • Country: China

The bland name is the result of a 2015 merger that brought together China’s two most well-known deals sites, Dianping and Meituan. The two brands continue to operate independently.

The dynamic duo in January scooped up what was then a world record funding round of US$3.3 billion.

2. Didi Chuxing

  • Funding round: US$7.3 billion
  • Country: China

Didi Chuxing shocked the world in August when it acquired Uber’s China business.

The US$7.3 billion it pocketed a couple of months earlier – including US$1 billion from Apple – was ostensibly to prolong the brutal and expensive war between Didi and Uber, which included unsustainable levels of discounts, free rides, and other incentives to win over passengers.

1. Supercell

  • Funding round: US$8.6 billion
  • Country: Finland

The supersized Supercell deal saw China’s gaming king acquire the Finnish studio behind Clash of Clans and Clash Royale from Softbank.

The Chinese firm owns League of Legends developer Riot Games, and has a minority stake in Epic Games, the team behind Gears of War.

Tencent made a ton more bets this year: the Tech in Asia Database counts 46 where the company participated, more than Alibaba’s 16.

Those include an undisclosed sum into Slack-esque Teambition and a repeat investment for live streaming service Kamcord. All but three of Tencent’s newest investments were in Chinese startups.

See: Alibaba’s biggest investments this year

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

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