Chinese Internet mogul Vic Lee will be joining multi-billionaire Carlos Slim and Kazakh businessman Kegnes Rakishev to help Mobli take on the Chinese market. But is that all there is to it? We think not.
A week after announcing it would start trading its stock on NASDAQ’s private market, and four months after enlisting multi-billionaire Carlos Slim, Israeli startup Mobli adds another star to its roster. This time it’s the Chinese Tencent’s Co-Founder, Vic Lee, that is joining the company board of advisors to assist Mobli in expanding its reach in China, and to explore new monetization pathways (Editor’s Note: Vic Lee was SEVP at Tencent before he left the company in 2012 to found Virtus Inspire Capital. He joined Tencent in 1999, according to Tencent’s Soso Wikipedia, shortly after the company was founded in November 1998. He is, however, not listed as one of the founders by Tencent.)
Mobli Co-Founder and CEO, Moshe Hogeg with Vic Lee.
If you can’t beat them, just go to other places
Only 6 months ago Mobli announced their massive $60M round of funding led by multi-billionaire and America-Mobil owner Carlos Slim, in a move to take on Latin-America. In a statement released earlier today, the company revealed that Vic Lee, one of the founders of the Chinese internet giant Tencent was also an investor in that round and will now join the company’s advisory team to help with their expansion into his own home-court in China.
In the last six months alone, the company has added more than 3M new users to its app, a good number considering it is about 20% of their 15M user base to date. However, it’s not very impressive compared to the market leader, Instagram, which announced that it reached the 150M user mark late last year–more than 10 times more than Mobli. But Instagram’s stronger markets are the US and parts of Europe, so Mobli is trying to take on other, some-what less competitive, markets in an experience to gain a prominent advantage that will allow the company to grow.
Lee explains that while the Chinese market already has competitors in the field, he still thinks a company like Mobli has strong chances in capturing a big enough market share. “[mobli] is one of the most promising companies I’ve seen, and it has the potential to disrupt and transform large sectors of the Chinese market. I’m incredibly excited to work with such an innovative, young company and to introduce Chinese users to this remarkable platform and experience.” Lee said in the official announcement.
But while Lee believes Mobli’s chances of success in China are good, the company still has to face an uphill battle with competitors like Chinese Camera360 (which already has more than three times the amount of users that Mobli has), Internet giant Baidu’s MoTu and other popular apps such as Vida, Tuding and Lemeleme. We’re assuming that part of Lee’s interest in Mobli stems from the fact that mobile photo and video sharing is still something Tencent is trying to figure out, after their own Instagram-like endeavor, called Q Pai launched back in 2011 and wasn’t a great success like one might have hoped.
The world is not enough
The truth is I can’t seem to understand the big fuss and the huge interest the company has been getting from famous celebrities and prominent business figures from around the world.
Obviously, all the attention is something that has been helping to company to keep attracting the media, and maybe even gain some users as result, but can the “Celeb-mania” marketing approach keep the company growing for the long haul? I guess that even the company realized their dilemma and that’s why they moved from attracting high-end celebs (Such as Leonardo DeCaprio and Sarina Williams, both of whom are investors in the company) to a more business-celeb-focused approach.
Just to set things straight, I do think Mobli is a good app, with a nice user experience and a good-enough feature-set to give a user some value. But while people like Lee, Slim and Kegnes Rakishev, each have their own strategic value to add to the company and expanding into other markets is a valid and sensible business strategy, I still can’t shake the feeling that Mobli’s huff-and-puff approach is some sort of an attempt to cover up a lack of real, unique value to their users.
This post originally appeared on GeekTime, Israel-based tech news blog.