Before Momo, it was believed no one would become a real threat to Tencent in China’s social market in the near future. Momo started being referred to as a social app for strangers, Tang Yan, founder and CEO of the company, would later say that they wanted eventually to be Tencent’s QQ IM on mobile. A widely accepted story about QQ IM is that it allows users to send messages to strangers — The recipient can block the user though. — helped it gain traction in the early days.

It is believed that it’s hard to monetize a social service for strangers as users as the label itself doesn’t encourage users to stay. To become the QQ for mobile, Momo would launch groups and other features to keep keep users around. Also like QQ, Momo rolled out virtual goods — emoticons, slightly different from virtual avatars QQ began with — and games to monetize the user base.

Last year Momo announced 100 million users and claimed it broke even through gaming, and reportedly is planning for an IPO in the U.S. Thanks to the encouraging story by Momo, we saw a new wave of social apps emerging in China and almost everyone willingly labels its product as for “strangers”. Different from QQ IM or Momo, some of the new take advantage of new technologies or create new ways for social interaction.

For investors, it doesn’t matter what a product is referred to or perceived so long it can scale and monetize a user base. It’s unknown whether Chinese investors are inspired by the Momo story, or simply regret passing on the opportunity in investing in Momo, a handful of newly emerged apps of this kind have been funded not long after launches.

iweju is an app for strangers to meet up first before chatting online and getting to know each other. Shortly after its launch in last October, the app got angel funding from Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi and a legendary angel investor of China, and YY, where the founder of iweju used to work as vice president. — Lei Jun was also an early investor in YY. iweju claims it has had more than five million users.

Inbilin is a voice call app for strangers — Yes, you don’t know who’s on the phone before the call gets through. Launched in May 2013, the app claims it has had 20 million registered users and raised US$15 million in Series A funding. Inbilin has had many competitors.

There are a lot more. Moumou is for users to reach contacts of their own friends on Weibo(a Twitter-like service); Qunquan indexes messages or user info from Weibo and other social networks and link users living close to each other; Please Wake me up enables a user to wake any one up and send messages to him or her. A lot of more are out there.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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