Today I learned – 24th January 2020

Thanks to this presentation by a16z, I learned that Meituan is responsible for 50% hotel night bookings in China while CTrip plummets to around 20%. I also learned about a startup called Knowable that offers professional courses via audio.

Though the presenter made great points and gave excellent examples of Chinese companies that I know nothing about, I have a couple of disagreements with the material. First, to back up her first big trend that superapps are trending, she used the following slide

The issue I have with the use of the slide is that it’s unclear what activities an average person spends on the phone. Is the rise of usage due to streaming? Video games? Activities that have less to do with superapp wannabes?

Second, letting advertisers have access to user data is a slippery road in the West. It’s acceptable in China, but users are much more conscious of their privacy in the West. Apple tries hard to highlight its privacy-first position to users as much as possible. Facebook and Google repeatedly run into privacy-related trouble with users and lawmakers. I have no idea what the future holds, but at this moment, I have reservation over Western companies repeating the success of Chinese superapps.

It will be interesting to see at what point an app is called a superapp. It’s common to take advantage of a low-margin service segment that brings a lot of traffic in order to offer a higher margin service. Amazon did that. Their e-commerce leads to fulfillment. Along the way, they came up with Prime, AWS and advertising, services that offer a much higher margin than E-commerce. Facebook lets us use their platform for free and then turns around to sell ads at a ridiculous margin.

I do think that the battle for users’ attention and time will eventually lead apps to build more functions and offer more services. I; however, doubt that every app will be a superapp, the same way that those Chinese apps are.

Nonetheless, pops to Connie and a16z for an interesting presentation.