Ep. 21: Is WeChat Bulletproof?


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In Ep. 21 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about the new messaging app, Bullet Messenger, which took the Chinese internet by storm and reached five million registered users in just eleven days. The key question: is this a true challenger to WeChat? Or is it more of a short-lived, false alarm without real long-term potential? Listeners will also hear expert analysis from Matthew Brennan, a speaker and writer focused on Chinese mobile internet who can be found at @mbrennanchina and on the podcast China Tech Talk.

Rui and Ying-Ying start by delving into a crucial quality about Bullet which has been overlooked in English language coverage: the incredible power and reach of its angel investor and best spokesperson, Luo Yonghao. Luo is a former English teacher who gained a cult following thanks to his entertaining sayings and charisma in the classroom. He took his cultural capital and went into smartphones, creating the brand Smartisan, which released its first phone in May 2014. Smartisan formerly employed a senior product manager named Hao Xijie, founder of the company that created Bullet Messenger. Though Hao has made clear that his intention is to disrupt business messaging, the media has not been deterred from dubbing him a “WeChat challenger.”

Rui and Ying-Ying dig into some of Bullet’s features, including its quick voice-to-text function, its easier management of group chats, and the ability to reply in threads. However, even with these interesting functions, the big challenge of the app is its lack of contacts– how is the app going to overcome the network effects dominance of WeChat? It also has challenges with privacy and with inappropriate content. Even so, the company has already taken on $22 million in funding at a nearly $90 million valuation from Banyan Capital and Chengwei Capital, even before going through the full list of interested investors, which included Tencent.

Listen to the newest episode of TechBuzz China and join our co-hosts in debating: does Bullet have a real chance at disrupting WeChat, or at least take away some of the current use cases of WeChat, the biggest success of Chinese internet in the past decade? Or… is WeChat completely and utterly Bullet-proof?

If you’re in the Bay Area, come hang out with Rui, Ying-Ying, and Pandaily CEO Kevin at GeekPark’s Fire of Innovation event! It’s this Tuesday, September 18 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Click here to claim your free ticket: https://www.facebook.com/events/536785786741878/

As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com. Let us know what you think of the show by leaving us an iTunes review, like our Facebook page, and don’t forget to tweet at us at @techbuzzchina to win some swag!