Smart phones are gradually turning into the best gateway to the mobile internet, which has attracted many big tech companies, entrepreneurs and investors as well. Tong Shihao, partner of Qiming Ventures recently shared his insights into this trend in an interview with local media.

The heat of making phones among Chinese Internet companies have been lasting for a while, and young faces keep surfacing. Tong accounted this for the maturity and availability of hardware/OEM industry chain as well as talents from former well-established cell phone companies like Motorola or Nokia. “There must be a fierce battle among the new comers, and I guess only 3 to 5 can survive. And they have to differentiate themselves from other players.”

“Surfing this area, you have to master the triathlon: Attitude to Focus, Swift Speed and Nice Promotion.” This is an interesting analogy and he also emphasized that companies should always base Promotion on a solid foundation of the former two. He also lectured that, many startups had difficulties in raising new rounds after seed funding, the reason is simple, venture capitals sometimes would want to test out by small investments, but not all startups grew fast enough to appeal to the subsequent rounds.

He commented on the status quo, “Branding is not an easy job for smart phones, and it takes time. Starting next year, the landscape will be changing, and in 3 years, you’ll see who’ll be the winners. Actually since last June the competition is getting so much fiercer, which is just like the situation of the Warring State Period of ancient China.”

Does gateway really mean monetization? As an investor, Tong has a clear opinion on this. “Xiaomi is a good example of learning from the e-commerce companies. The model of small profits with good sales is doable. Once the sales is on the track, it’s possible to make money of its customized Android ROM MIUI. Xiaomi is good at marketing, which is very important for branding. But branding alone is insufficient to make a durable smartphone vendor. Hardware, software and branding, you gotta have them all.”

动点科技驻湾区记者. Charlie is an entrepreneur based in San Francisco and Hong Kong who calls herself the undefeated caffeine champion. You can reach her at charlie.sheng (at)

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1 Comment

  1. Xiaomi may be good at marketing, but they are terrible at actually putting their phones in the hands of those who want to buy them. Either his comments were heavily edited or Tong sounds like just another pundit babbling a lot of marketspeak.

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