Zank, a social service for Chinese homosexuals, raised several million yuan in seed funding from Matrix Partners China in May this year. Zank, actually, has been around for three years as an online gay community. It got funding in less than one month after the launch of a mobile app.
It’s unknown whether it is the first case that a homosexual-targeted tech startup has got funded. What’s for sure is Chinese investors have set eyes on the market potential of Internet services for LGBT groups.
An investor I got talked to recently seemed excited about the newly emerged online/mobile services for LGBT groups, counting that they would spend all the money other Chinese would spend on wedding, raising kids and child’s education — accounting for the largest spendings of Chinese families apart from real estate — on those Internet services.
This investor also believed that people of LGBT groups are generally higher paid with strong purchasing power. Positive factors, when it comes to China, also include that there’s no religious pressure on Chinese in this regard and nowadays Chinese society seems more tolerant of it than a lot of other countries.
In an article written by Ling Jueding, founder of Zank and a gay himself, he pointed out that there are more services that can be provided to homosexuals than before as the society is more open. Over ten years ago, there were closed online chatting rooms for homosexuals and every few would let people in real world know about their sexual orientation. Now, as more and more have come out and express their social needs online, more products or services will be developed to fulfill their needs.
More than a few people, however, believe it’s a niche market. In Ling’s article he cited a research that shows 5% of the total population is homosexual. So that’s 70 million in China’s case — not a small number by any means. But what a percentage of those people would admit they are of LGBT groups is a question. After three years, Zank’s online community has more than 300 thousand users.
Zank’s app functions like Momo, a social app for strangers, that has location-based features for users to find and interact with people with similar interests. Momo claimed it had had 50 million registered users two years after its launch.
When it comes to monetization, Zank plans to charge premium features, sell goods loved by this group of people or organize offline events that will be sponsored by brands — no difference from other social services.