LinkedIn’s China rival Maimai raises $200 million ahead of US IPO

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Maimai, China’s biggest rival to LinkedIn, announced that the company received a $200 million D Series investment this April in what the company claims to be the largest funding ever in the professional networking market. With a valuation of at least $1 billion company has been raised to unicorn status.

Global venture capital DST led the funding with the participation of existing investors of IDG, Morningside Venture Capital, and DCM.

In addition, the firm says it plans to invest RMB 1 billion (around $150 million) over the next three years in a career planning program it launched in partnership with over 1000 companies including global top-500 firm Cisco and Chinese renowned firms like Fashion Group and Focus Media.

With the new funding, the company is gearing up for a US IPO and overseas expansion in the second half of 2019, according to the company founder and CEO Lin Fan.

Launched in the fall of 2013, Maimai aims particularly at business people as a platform to connect professional workers and offer employment opportunities. The site now claims over 50 million users. As a Chinese counterpart of LinkedIn, Maimai has been competing head-on with Chinese arm of the US professional networking giant since its establishment and gradually gaining an upper hand with features tailored for local tastes.

Chinese market research firm iResearch ranked Maimai ahead of LinkedIn for the first time in the rankings of China’s most popular social networking apps in April last year. The firm further gains ground this year as its user penetration rate reaching 83.8% in June, far higher than LinkedIn China’s 11.8%, according to data from research institute Analysys.

As a China-born company, Maimai gained momentum over the past two years with localized features, such as the anonymous chatting, mobile-first, real-name registration, and partnerships with Chinese emerging tech giants. But like many of Chinese tech services, the company is subject to the state’s tight online regulation. The government watchdog has ordered Maimai to remove the anonymous posting section on its platform last month.