A Chinese idiom says:”History serves as a mirror to reflect the status quo and future”, better yet, it can guide you through a bumpy ride avoiding pitfalls that you might fall into had it not been for the lessons you learn by reflecting on the past.

In the ChinaBangAwards 2012’, an award aiming to wrap up China Internet in the past year – through which we can ponder about the past and capture the trend for the coming year, held by the leading China tech-centric blog media TechNode, we nominated Top 5 startups/techies under different categories ranging from mobile social networking services, touch-enabled games, reading services to seed fund investor. You can tell what has been going on last year in their respective territories by taking a closer look at all those nominees and the technology, innovation, business model behind them.

The top 5 fall under Most Favorable Mobile Social Apps category include: Jiepang, Renren, Weixin, Immomo.com and Zaizher.im. Jiepang has been leading the Chinese LBS market with its innovative thinking in bridging the gap between local merchants and consumers for quite a while as other LBS services are either making ‘strategic shift’ or struggling to weather through fierce competition. Renren, the first social networking site got listed in NYSE last year retained its strong market position though facing fierce competition from the rise of other social media platforms like Sina Weibo. Weixin curated by Tencent ran like a dark horse, the Kik/Talkbox mix now has more than 50 million registered users while 20 million of which are active users. Immomo represents an idea similar to the elastic social networking originally raised by Color, you get to see who’re around you and can get to know them through random talking in the first place. Zizher is kinda similar to Immomo plus Bump and more professional-centric.

In general, looking back at them, we could find what characterize last year’s mobile social networking services are:

  1. Online offline mix;
  2. Location-based elastic social networking, or so called stranger social networking
  3. Business-oriented vertical service due to high penetration of smartphones among business people.

As for the Most Favorable Life-style services/apps, Baidu Maps, Xiami Music, Wochacha, QQ Music and Dianping made it to Top5. There’re two music services in the list, probably partially explains why Spotify, Rdio and Pandora are considering dipping their toes into China market. Dianping certainly will ride the wave of online2offline to strength its current position and push it towards mobile end.

In regard to mobile communication apps, Weixin and Miliao with their Kik approach both made it to the list while QQ Contacts and Youlu Contacts which tap into the trend of smartphone-based social contact service in last year also got through to Top 5.

When it comes to the Most Favorable Ecommerce Apps/Website/Service, public votes sent Yihaodian, Alipay and 360buy to Top5, not a surprise given their popularity here. Meilishuo also deserves its fame by leading the social ecommerce wave in China. And after all the group buying drama here, Meituan stood out eventually from the group by its solid operation model, walk slower, walk steadier, and thus survive longer.

Nothing new in the Most Favorable News/Reading category though, Zaker, NetEase Reading and Xianguo Lianbo are all Flipboard clones in China, though Tangcha Project has won both money and applause for its Apple-style creative and down-to-earth craftsmanship in curating all those iOS-based Chinese books.

In terms of Picture Sharing apps and services, the new darling of Valley – Pinterest wouldn’t miss it for the world to find so many ‘tribute payers’ in China while Huaban who made it to the Top 5 is a post child of its kind. The other 4 are all more of a tool rather than hardcore social services. I was always wondering why few Chinese entrepreneurs could come up with something like Instagram while there are some video version Instagram though.

It’s not a surprise to see Lei Jun, Innovation Works, IDG, Matrix Partners China and Sequoia to be voted for Best Angel or Early-Stage Investors of the Year and Jiang Fan (founder of UMeng), Ji Shisan (Guokr.com), Chen Haozhi (Fishing Joy), Wang Jialiang (TouchPal) and Zhou Yuan (Zhihu.com) made it through to Best Entrepreneurs/Founders of the Year. Lei’s wide connection in the industry gains him access to some pretty nice startups, one of the reason why he always get to invest in decent project earlier than others. Innovation Works has incubated a bunch of amazing startups while some are raising big money. IDG Sequoia and Matrix are all among these VCs who kept a close eye on China web sector. And these founders or serial entrepreneurs, they either made an overnight success or worked out something out of impossibility, they gave up solid pay and comfortable life provided by big companies to hack their dream out. They’re the heroes that shaped the current Chinese Internet landscape.

For more details about those winners, you can refer to: http://chinabang.technode.com/winner/

Listener of startups, writer on tech. Maker of things, dreamer by choice.

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