With IPO plans, China’s hipster social network Douban turns pragmatic

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10:00 PM HKT, Thu August 10, 2017 1 mins read

Editor’s note: This article by Rita Liao was originally published by TechNode. It has been re-posted here with permission. Douban is an interesting hybrid of a social network: part IMDb, part Soundcloud/Spotify, part Facebook (for events, mainly art- and music-related), part early ’00s-style message board network, but also a vinyl record label and, most recently, a music festival organizer. Douban — a company I have previously worked with as a writer and editor — is a China original, and I hope they find sure footing and maintain their uniquely quirky character as they head toward a foreign IPO. –Josh Feola

Douban—a Chinese social networking service that focuses on film, music, and books—revealed on August 5 that its plans to go public overseas would bring in cash flow necessary for its product lines to run on independent budgets. The email did not mention which overseas market the company planned to list on.

The announcement comes from a leaked internal email (in Chinese) that founder and CEO Yang Bo (more widely known as Ah Bei) sent to his employees, calling for a “pragmatic” pivot for the company. A person familiar with the matter has confirmed the authenticity of the email to TechNode.

Ah Bei said in the email that the “waning, profit losing” products including Dongxi, a product once with high financial expectations, will be terminated. A new content business group, centered around its first paid content feature Douban Time, will launch with the focus on generating revenue.

Founded in 2005, Douban has long adopted a self-described “slow” approach to its business model against today’s currents. Coupled with the site’s focus on books, music, and movie reviews, Douban is widely known as a haven for China’s utopian hipsters. Over the years it has dabbled in several monetization attempts with few significant outcomes. AlphaTown, a virtual city developed with the aim to make money from e-commerce and online gaming, shut down in 2015 after five years of operation.

As of 2016, Douban has accumulated 150 million registered users and 300 million monthly active users, Caixin reports. It’s a much less sticky app, however, compared to other Chinese social networking giants. Based on a report by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), Douban’s usage rate (percentage of users who used the app in the last six months) in 2017 is 8.6%, compared to Weibo’s 38.7% and WeChat’s 84.3%.

Douban’s last funding round was a $50 million Series C in September 2011.

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