Peter Zou of Yeahmobi is in a buoyant mood. After a round of financing that clinched close to US$100 million in funding last December, he puts the value of his Chinese mobile marketing company at close to $720 million.
The Xian-based company now has more than 400 employees worldwide, with offices in the US, Europe and Asia. It touts itself as one of the largest mobile marketing and advertising companies in the world, with clients including Yahoo, Sega, AliExpress and India’s Paytm.
According to its website, Yeahmobi’s mobile advertising platform allows other companies to grow, acquire users and monetize inventory.
Zou, 29, sat down with Asia Times at Hong Kong’s recent RISE conference to talk about the company’s expansion plans, his views on China’s internet sector and helping Chinese companies expand into overseas markets.
Can you tell us a little bit about Yeahmobi and how it helps Chinese companies expand overseas?
Yeahmobi is a global company that has media networks that cover the whole world. If you are on our platform, you are able to connect to media outlets around the world as we aggregate all the outlets on one platform.
Our clients are mostly Chinese companies but we also help other companies enter different markets. Like, say, a Japanese company wanting to enter the Brazilian market, we help them too. We’ve helped other companies like Uber, Lazada, Grab expand into other markets as well.
Can you give an example of how your company works?
Most of the time our business has to do with acquiring users for companies’ apps or mobile platforms. Typically, it can be something like Company A approaches us and ask us to acquire users, with a specific percentage of users being retained after a certain period of time, say a month. Then we get a few dollars for each user acquired. If the company asks us to get 3,000 users, and for each user we get US$3, then we get US$9,000 for the deal, as an example.
You also help Chinese companies expand overseas. Can you share some of the difficulties they face?
I think the hardest thing would be for traditional businesses facing a different culture. When it comes to local services, culture or content that needs to be localized, and also dealing with local governments in different countries, there will be a certain degree of difficulty involved when it comes to entering a different market.
What about overseas companies entering the Chinese market?
I’ll use the example of mobile gaming companies entering the Chinese market. For mobile apps overseas, the distribution is via Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. For China, there is no Google Play Store, but there are other third-party app stores for Android users. The overseas companies are not familiar with all these third-party platforms, or even familiar with this concept.
Second, there’s also a lot of regulations to take into consideration in China. They would need to have the relevant permits and licenses from the Chinese authorities. Third, there’s the local cultural context to take care of, which means for the mobile gaming companies they might have to adapt their storylines or how the characters are drawn to suit the Chinese market.
There’s demand for Chinese companies to enter overseas markets, but overseas companies are also trying to enter the Chinese market as China is the world’s largest consumer market.
Your company is very acquainted with online businesses from different countries. How do you see China’s tech development relative to that of other countries?
It’s true that Chinese companies are moving faster than the rest of the world when it comes to developments in mobile technology. I think there’s a high level of technical expertise in China, and also demand for new technological products in the country. Chinese people are also more anxious to try anything that’s new. So the combination of demand plus expertise results in a lot of commercial potential.
The development of B2C [business to consumer] technologies in China is especially fast compared with the rest of the world. In terms of B2C technologies such as mobile tech, bike-sharing and mobile payment, China is currently leading the world. Also in terms of social apps, WeChat is currently leading in terms of ease of use compared with Facebook and WhatsApp.
You talk about WeChat. What do you think is the global landscape for social apps and WeChat’s future?
I think for social apps, the geography is sort of fixed. China has WeChat, Japan has Line, South Korea has KakaoTalk. The degree to which they can expand in terms of social messaging isn’t much, but they’re looking to grow in mobile payments.
WeChat’s investments into companies such as the bike-sharing app Ofo are about mobile payments. Ofo has about 25 million transactions at its peak, all via mobile payments. So in terms of strategy, I think WeChat will look to invest in overseas companies or certain sectors that have a high volume of transactions and try to integrate its mobile payment system there.
What are Yeahmobi’s next moves?
The European and North America markets are still very big markets that we are interested in. As we are in the advertising business, we just need to look at countries’ GDP rankings. Typically, the advertising spending of a country is about 1.5% of its GDP.
We are looking at overseas acquisitions. China, South Korea and Southeast Asia are stronger markets for our company but if you are talking about the North American and European markets, simply to enter them is a little difficult, and it’s even harder to build up a brand there, but we are thinking of doing some acquisitions in the European market.