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WeChat rival Bullet Message to invest US$146mn in customer acquisition drive

|Sep 7|magazine7 min read
Smartisan CEO, Luo Yonghao, has said it will spend US$146mn on its Bullet Message app as it looks to compete in earnest with Tencent’s WeChat
 
The app launched on 20 August and rapidly topped the iOS App Store in China as the most heavily downloaded free app.
 
Speaking on his Weibo account, Mr Luo hailed Bullet Message’s early success: “As a new app that is not fully ready, Bullet Messaging has achieved unbelievable results in the past ten-plus days”.
 
According to SCMP, this growth has slowed to the extent that it is now at rank 72 on the same chart.
 
Mr Luo, in acknowledgement of this fall in growth, said: “Next we will focus on stability, hiring and readying the core functions. In two weeks, we will begin spending 1 billion [yuan] over six months to [gain] 100 million users”.
 
Tech in Asia reported that, according to Mr Luo, Bullet has thus far acquired 7mn users.
 
Bullet was originally developed by Beijing-based Kuairu Technology, a firm of which Smartisan is an investor.
 
Tencent’s WeChat, with more than 1bn users, dominates China’s messaging market.
 
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The app began as a straightforward messaging platform, but has since involved into a ubiquitous one-stop for users to make mobile payments, order food, use ride-hailing services, and play games.
 
As Smartisan looks to gain ground in the market by boosting its features, SCMP said that Alibaba may integrate Alipay into the Bullet platform.
 
SCMP and Tech in Asia also noted that Bullet faces criticism for its content filtering, citing China Channel’s Matthew Brennan as saying that the app’s news feed gives the impression of being less shrewd with sensitive content than WeChat.
 
Nonetheless, SCMP added that Bullet features convenient services that WeChat lacks, such as an automatic transcriber for voice messages courtesy of iFlytek’s voice recognition technology.
 
On Bullet’s chances of successfully challenging WeChat for market share, Tech in Asia noted that “other newcomers have tried and failed to topple WeChat”, including Alibaba’s own attempt in 2013 which “came to nought”.