FactorDaily Year in Review: 2018

China, the newest megatrend in tech

Team FactorDaily | 17 December 2018

December 10, 2018

Over the last three decades, China has emerged the world’s foremost manufacturing power. Next, it is making its bets on artificial intelligence. The Pedro Domingos-authored ‘The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World’ is said to enjoy pride of place in Chinese premier Xi Jinping’s bookshelves and much of the Chinese government’s bet on AI as the next big thing comes from his conviction.

That conviction is playing out in China, as a recent visit by two of our reporters – Jayadevan P K and Shadma Shaikh – to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong revealed. This first story in the #FactorDailyinChina series showed how AI, computer vision, digital identity, micropayments on platforms and related technologies have mainstreamed applications of deep tech in China. (The series of these stories will continue into 2019.)

The headline of this story could well have been ‘AI bites into Beijing’.

December 11, 2018

There is one common trait among Chinese companies, both small and large: extreme avarice for scale. So, if micropayments on WeChat and other platforms outrank the No. 2 country on use of such payments (United States) by a mile, it is indicative of the pursuit of scale by Chinese fintech companies.

That pursuit has them looking beyond their borders to South and South East Asia, Africa and South America. “If you said in 2010 that software is eating the world, in 2018, you should say Chinese software is eating the world,” as a person interviewed for the story told us. The idea is not only to export technology crafted in China but also play a part in running fintech businesses in South East Asia, Africa and India where millions of users are coming online.

November 6, 2018

Short video apps like Kwai, Clip, TikTok have been quite a rage in India and globally in the past year or so. With data access getting cheaper, millions of users are getting on mobile platforms every day. Apps like Kwai, TikTok and Clip aimed at lower- or lower-middle class users in India have found strong growth with demand from vernacular entertainment consumers. TikTok, by Chinese giant ByteDance, counts India as its priority market had over 15 million users in India as of February 2018.

But, spend a few minutes on Kwai, Clip, TikTok, ShareIt and other apps – and you will come out disturbed. They are full of videos and images of underage children in inappropriate poses or chats. They amplify India’s deep-rooted problem of children and preteens exposing themselves to the dark world of paedophiles.

October 8, 2018

WeChat is the world’s largest super app today folding into it chat, payments, and what not. It was created in 2010 by Allen Zhang, a product geek, and his team of 10 engineers. After a historic leap of reaching its first 100 million users in just 433 days, WeChat decided to go global with the product. India, where its parent Tencent already had a presence through travel services portal Ibibo, was a natural choice to test the waters.

In early 2012, a team of a dozen employees was assembled in Gurgaon to launch a huge marketing campaign. But, despite its deep-pocketed resources and an aggressive plan, WeChat failed in India. This story peeled the layers of how the superapp faded into oblivion in what later became the world’s second largest market of internet users. The story, the most read among our China series, was widely shared and discussed on platforms such as HackerNews.


August 9, 2018

We love product teardowns. When Akash Senapaty, a product manager of eight years, spoke to us about his thoughts put down on his blog about TikTok and how/why the app was killing it. Tik Tok has over 500 million users and is part of Beijing Bytedance Technology Co. (better known as Bytedance), which also owns successful apps such as Toutiao and News Republic.

Akash calls TikTok “a really well executed Social Network”. He bucketed his analysis of the app around its super simple UI, its “hearts” currency, its content discovery prowess, its global challenges and Live-Ops, its social chops, and how it collaborates boldy with other networks. A meaty read, if the innards of an app excite you.

July 12, 2018

At breakfast meetups and startup events in Bengaluru, word is that the Chinese are coming for you. They’re aggressive. They don’t have the concept of taking it slow and they work hard. Indeed. With access to Chinese capital, an undying appetite for growth and a playbook that’s perfected in China, they’re in it to win big. “They’re asking if Xiaomi has become number one…if Newsdog has become number one, then why can’t we,” says Gurpreet Singh, Beijing-based founder and CEO at ATM Ventures.

Chinese investors are betting on a unique insight they’ve gleaned by watching companies back home. They believe that content or communications is the easiest way to reach the user. Once the platform acquires a large number of users, they typically see gaming, microtransactions, and, finally, e-commerce grow on those platforms.

July 2, 2018

NewsDog – launched in 2016 by Forrest Chen Yukun, a computer science graduate from Tsinghua University, and Yi Ma, who holds a PhD from Princeton University and previously worked at Baidu and Goldman Sachs – ran into unexpected success in India. Its playbook is borrowed from the immensely popular Toutiao in China, which has around 200 million daily users and is known for its racy content.In India, where it counts more than 50 million downloads, NewsDog, too, often crosses the line when it comes to racy versus risque. Sample some of its daily videos and posts: “Hot photoshoot of an actress,” “Heroine goes nude,” “One of the sexiest adult star’s pictures,” “Actress forcibly kissed by an actor,” “Bikini pictures of an actor”… all presented under the name of entertainment content. This story based on an interview with Chen and other experts told the untold story of the ambitious NewsDog and its road ahead.

Design: Rajesh Subramanian

Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham among its investors. Accel Partners and Blume Ventures are venture capital firms with investments in several companies. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham are entrepreneurs and angel investors. None of FactorDaily’s investors has any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.