ByteDance to venture into consumer hardware with educational gadgets

The logo for Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.'s Jinri Toutiao mobile app is displayed at the company's headquarters in Beijing, China, Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

ByteDance Ltd., owner of popular video app TikTok, is making its first foray into consumer hardware by developing educational gadgets.

The Chinese startup intends to release “educational hardware” in future, it said in a statement without elaborating. That initiative comes after the social media goliath acquired patents and hired staffers from smartphone maker Smartisan in January — a move it said at the time was geared toward the education market.

ByteDance — the world’s largest startup with a valuation of $75 billion — has made huge strides into online media with TikTok and news service Toutiao. Hardware would complement its exploration of online education, as it taps demand for child-tutoring from affluent households. Last year, it rolled out the Gogokid app, offering one-on-one English lessons with American teachers. It’s a burgeoning market: rival VIPKid, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sequoia China, was valued at over $3 billion in its funding round in April last year.

The Financial Times previously reported that the Beijing-based company planned to launch a smartphone with its own apps installed. But Bytedance said Thursday it will stick with the Smartisan brand.

“The goal of this acquisition is to incorporate the team’s strength to build upon ByteDance’s initiatives in the education space, specifically for upcoming education hardware,” company spokeswoman Kaylene Hong said in the statement.

ByteDance started out in 2012 as the developer of news aggregator Toutiao but has evolved into an app factory for everything from messaging and streaming to work collaboration. The TikTok video-sharing app and its Chinese version have been installed more than a billion times as of April, making ByteDance one of the few Chinese internet companies to make it big globally.

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.