Is Smart Wi-Fi Router the Next Big Thing in China?

Is Smart Wi-Fi Router the Next Big Thing in China?

By Tracey Xiang on October 12, 2013

Smart Wi-Fi router HiWiFi confirmed that it had risen some ten million dollars in Series A funding from Innovation Works and GGV Capital. It is rumored that famous Chinese angel investors, Zhou Hongyi and Lei Jun, and Baidu showed interest in it too. The gadget caught our eye because of a built-in app that helps users in mainland China visit web services inaccessible here. More than 20 thousand pieces have reportedly been sold since July launch.

The funding will be used for product iteration and grabbing users, Wang Chuyun, founder of HiWiFi, told local media. (in Chinese) An updated product will be launched next month and the price will be lowered to appeal to users.

It will partner with Wandoujia on app distribution and integrate Internet services such as the Innovation Works-backed file transferring service. The company is also seeking cooperation with big Chinese Internet companies, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and the like.

Thus far it doesn’t sound like a product for a niche market, as we thought of it before, but an ambitious one that wants to enter as many Chinese families or other spaces as possible.

Some Chinese Internet companies are looking for the gateway-like business on mobile. On the Web, browser is considered such one where companies such as Qihoo won out in China market. Qihoo browsers successfully registered hundreds of millions of users and monetized the user base through display advertising, paid searches and revenue shares with third-party browser game developers.

But browser is much less relevant on mobile as visits to most used mobile services are but through apps. Some bet on app distributors, app stores or other apps or services that are able to push apps to users. Qihoo, Baidu, Wandoujia now are major players in this sector.

Router is the very gateway. Those companies also noticed smart router that can take control of Internet access and have impact on content consumption in families or working spaces. Qihoo released two wireless routers, one with an average size and the other is a dongle, about three months ago. Baidu followed suit with two me-too gadgets.

Before long, Kingsoft, Qihoo’s direct competitor, rolled out a WiFi service, with no need of hardware, and offered it for free. The only thing a user should do to launch the Kingsoft WiFi solution is to switch on the sharing function added to Kingsoft anti-virus service.

But all of them now are not so smart as HiWiFi. It is reported that Xiaomi is working on a smart router too. HiFiWi sees Xiaomi, not hardware startups or bigger Internet companies, as its direct competitor. Apart from smartphone which it started with, Xiaomi has launched a smart TV and is experimenting with a variety of smart devices.

Though Xiaomi wouldn’t ship all of them as its CEO Lei Jun said, it’s for sure that the company would like to reach everywhere possible to connect users to its content platform. Wang Chuyun thinks they are ahead of Xiaomi so far as MIUI, the custom Android operating system built in Xiaomi smartphones and smart TV, cannot beat their system in the router – HiWiFi’s team of 40 spent more than one year to develop the Linux-based system in the router.

 

Alibaba Bet On Wireless Business With ALL IN Strategy, Aiming At 30% Market Share For Laiwang

By Emma Lee on October 21, 2013

Alibaba Group planned to exert its utmost efforts to develop wireless business. Lu Zhaoxi, CEO of the e-commerce baron, required full mobilization, or what he called “ALL IN”, for the development of wireless sector (report in Chinese).

Alibaba takes Laiwang, an IM tool released 4.0 version this September, as a breakthrough point for wireless business. The market share of Laiwang is expected to reach 30% in a bid to guarantee better user experience and to facilitate the expansion of other services.

Different to similar IM tools of WeChat and EasyChat, Laiwang targeted at pure friend interaction platform by introducing new features such as, burn after reading, an automatic message eliminating service, and the right to establish groups with up to 500 members. The company has launched large-scale promotion activities for Laiwang both internally and externally.

To complete the product lineup, the company will also zero in on Mobile Taobao, Ali OS as well as an imminent O2O service. The newly added users of Mobile Taobao exceeded 100 million in the first half of this year, while number of active users tripled that of the same period of last year. Sina Weibo account of Mobile Taobao-like Weitao recorded more than 50 million visitors.

Wireless services Alibaba invested in are UC browser, Sina Weibo, AutoNavi, Xiami.com, among others.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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