China: News app Toutiao nabs $1b from Sequoia, CCB International at $11b valuation

100 Yuan notes are seen in this illustration picture in Beijing November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

One of the most talked about startups in China Toutiao, a personalized news app, has pocketed $1 billion in a series D funding round from returning backer Sequoia Capital and CCB International, the investment arm of China Construction Bank, at a whopping $11 billion valuation, as per a report in Technode.

The startup’s valuation in the latest funding round, which took place at the end of last year, was reported to be 20 times higher than the $500 million valuation it touched by raising $100 million in the series C round more than two years ago.

The round also saw exits of investors Sina and Zhou Hongyi, most likely at a profit, the report quoted CEO of Qihoo 360 and a renowned local tech blogger Lei Jianping. According to Lei, the proceeds of funding will be used to support the generation of quality content. The company is planning to invest in video business and Q&A services in 2017.

It is also being said that Liu Zhen, SVP of Toutiao and a cousin of Didi Chuxing’s president Liu Qing, is behind the funding deal. Zhen previously worked as SVP of Uber, and joined Toutiao in October 2016 post the Didi and Uber China merger.

Founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012, Toutiao is a recommendation system product based on data mining, which recommends valuable, personalized information to users in China.

The company has also started operations in North America, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Japan through its news feed app Toutiao. It had earlier invested in Dailhunt and BABE in Indonesia, and acquired Flipagram, a popular video app in the US, in February this year.

Toutiao claimed to have touched over 78 million daily active users and 175 million monthly active users by the end of 2016 with users spending an average 76 minute on the app per day.

Considering Toutiao’s growing popularity, the report added that it has the potential to lead China’s IT industry as a successor to China’s new BAT. China BAT is the collective term used to describe three largest software conglomerates – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

Toutiao competes with the likes of Tencent-backed Kuaibao, Alibaba-backed UC Toutiao, Yidian Zixun and more in the Chinese market.

Also Read: China news platform Toutiao acquires US mobile video creators’ app Flipagram

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