Maimai, LinkedIn’s biggest China rival, just raised $75 million in its latest Series C round and has plans to go IPO in 2019, our sister site is reporting (in Chinese). The round is led by DCM Ventures, an investor in popular social networking apps including Kuaishou, Tantan, Musical.ly, and Renren. IDG Capital and Morningside Venture Capital also participated in the round, and Chinese recruiting giant Zhilian Recruitment joined as a strategic investor.
Maimai launched in the fall of 2013, several months before the Mountain View, California-based professional networking giant entered China as a joint venture—LinkedIn China—that Sequoia and China Broadband Capital (CBC) helped set up. Since then the duo has been competing neck to neck to grab China’s professional users.
Over time, Maimai has edged in closer to its American rival. Data from research firm iResearch shows that Maimai has nearly 30 million registered users as of April, while LinkedIn China claims it reached 32 million users around that same time. However, iResearch has put the Chinese startup ahead of the American giant in a ranking (in Chinese) for Chinese networking apps based on the researcher’s “App Index”. In June, Maimai made it to the top three free enterprise apps in the China App Store, along with Alibaba’s Ding Ding and WeChat Enterprise.
LinkedIn China is one of the few foreign social networks that are accessible on the mainland without a special connection. It was also allowed to keep its user data outside China, while a lineup of tech giants, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Uber, and Airbnb, have moved their data onshore at the behest of the Chinese government.
Industry observers attribute Maimai’s growth to its ability to develop features that suit Chinese tastes. For instance, the app has incorporated anonymous chatting, a concept made popular among young Chinese by the controversial Wumi. It supports real-name registration, which is growing increasingly common on the Chinese internet, and has partnered up with other internet services such as car rental Didi Chuxing and travel site Qunar to determine user credit scores. In addition, the China-born company, aware that many Chinese users are mobile-first, mobile-only, has focused on mobile development. Its founder and CEO Lin Fan was previously director of technology at the now NASDAQ-listed Sogou.