Chinese interactive podcast platform Lizhi on Monday filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in the US, pulling ahead of its rival Ximalaya in the race toward becoming the first publicly traded audio platform in China.

Why it matters: As competition within the online audio market intensifies, Lizhi is seeking additional funding to maintain its competitive edge and boost growth.

Details: Lizhi said it will use the proceeds from the IPO to develop new products, invest in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, and expand the company’s overseas operations. No pricing terms were disclosed.

  • Founded in 2013, Lizhi is the second-largest online audio platform in China in terms of monthly active users (MAUs) for the nine months ended Sept. 30, trailing rival Ximalaya.
  • The platform’s MAU for the third quarter was 46.6 million, of which 5.7 million are hosts.
  • Lizhi’s net revenue for the third quarter grew 32.4% year on year to RMB 486.6 million (around $70.9 million).
  • Lizhi features user-generated content (UGC) and is the largest online audio community of its kind in China based on statistics from research firm iResearch, hosting more than 160.6 million podcasts as of Sept. 30.
  • In July, the company launched Sugar Chat, an audio entertainment product targeting the Middle Eastern and North African markets.
  • Credit Suisse and Citi Group are the joint bookrunners on the deal.

Lens: China’s ‘ear economy’

Context: China has one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing online audio markets, with the number of users expected to exceed 901.5 million in 2023 from 377.2 million in 2018, according to iResearch.

  • Lizhi’s most recent round of funding was a $50 million Series D in January 2018.
  • In June, regulators removed Lizhi along with Ximalaya from major Chinese Android app stores for 30 days for hosting audio content that promotes “historical nihilism” and superstitions.
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Tony Xu

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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