Airbnb rushes in where others fear to tread
Top business and technology news for March 22, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Microsoft Windows — Chinese government edition."
Airbnb adopts new name, doubles investment to woo China / Bloomberg Home-sharing giant Airbnb unveiled a new Chinese name, Aibiying (爱彼迎 Àibǐyíng), which translates as “welcome each other with love,” in Shanghai on Wednesday. Not everyone was pleased: On the social media platform Weibo, many people stated that the new name sounds awkward. One commentator said (in Chinese), “The name is so weird, and I think the reason why they came up with this ugly name is for marketing purposes.”
The company also launched the Chinese version of Airbnb Trips, which offers services such as concert ticket and restaurant reservations. According to CEO Brian Chesky, who spoke at the Shanghai event, Airbnb doubled its listings to about 80,000, and increased the number of Chinese users by 146 percent in 2016. Echoing a long line of internet CEOs who have made such commitments and then failed embarrassingly, Chesky wrote on an Instagram post that “China is one of our most important countries” and will “commit to this market long term.” The enthusiasm recalls Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s statements in 2015 that China was the “number one priority for Uber’s global team” and “one of the largest untapped opportunities for Uber, potentially larger than the U.S.” Less than a year after Kalanick made those pronouncements, Uber retreated from China with its tail between its legs, unable to compete with its local rival. Airbnb has two main competitors in China, Xiaozhu and Tujia, which the New York Times examines in an article (paywall) that also describes the American company’s efforts to challenge them, such as partnering with Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent.
One factor that could help Airbnb succeed where most American tech companies have failed is the growing numbers of outward-bound Chinese tourists. The Chinese home-sharing companies will find it almost impossible to establish a meaningful presence outside of China, so even if Airbnb does not become the platform of choice for home sharing in China itself, there’s a whole world out there.
Tiny team wants to unlock China’s wealth secrets / Bloomberg
- China’s extreme income inequality finally appears to be falling / Quartz
- AI expert at Baidu, Andrew Ng, resigns from Chinese search giant / NYT (paywall)
- Apple faces tough competition in China’s $5.5 trillion mobile payments market / Bloomberg
- Three China store chains pull Japanese goods in radiation scare / Financial Times (paywall)
- China’s Silk Road Fund ‘seeking investment projects in Europe’ / SCMP
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