China's Alibaba invests $215 million in Tango messaging app

Alibaba will get a seat on Tango's board of directors, and hold a minority stake

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is investing US$215 million to acquire a minority stake and a seat in the board of Tango, a mobile messaging app from the U.S.

The investment announced Thursday by the Chinese company follows investments by some other Internet companies in mobile messaging apps. Last month, Facebook announced it would spend $16 billion to buy WhatsApp, a rival product also out of the U.S.

Days before that deal was announced, Japan's Rakuten said it would buy messaging app Viber for $900 million.

As smartphone use is soaring, tech companies across the world are scrambling for products that can attract millions of mobile Internet users. In China, Alibaba has been making more of its e-commerce services available on smartphones and tablets by developing apps, and even its own mobile OS.

Alibaba did not discuss how it intends to benefit from its investment in Tango. 31 percent of the app's users come from North America, while another 29 percent are from the Middle East.

Over the last six months, Alibaba has been investing in U.S. Internet companies it believes are promising. These include ShopRunner, an online retailer, and Quixey, a search engine for apps.

In a statement, Joe Tsai, Alibaba's executive vice chairman, said the e-commerce giant was "blown away" by Tango's vision and the quality of its team.

But according to a source familiar with the matter, one of the reasons Alibaba invested in Tango was because of its engineering expertise in mobile messaging.

Tango, which has 70 million monthly active users, works as an app that can enable video and voice calls, along with text messaging. Alibaba hopes to learn from Tango, and the company could even one day use its technology, although no such plans have been made yet, the source said.

In China, Alibaba has its own messaging app called Laiwang that competes against WeChat, a messaging app from local rival Tencent. WeChat already has 355 million monthly active users, and Tencent is spending millions on promoting the app outside of China.

The rivalry between Alibaba and Tencent has heated up recently. Earlier this month, Tencent announced it would join forces with Chinese online retailer JD.com, as part of a deal that could challenge Alibaba's hold over the local market. With Tencent's WeChat, the company has a popular app that can be tied to e-commerce functions such as making online purchases, or hosting advertisements for vendors.

Alibaba has been making its own investments in China to buttress its mobile business. Last year, it bought a stake in Sina Weibo, one of China's largest social networking sites, as a way to promote its e-commerce services. In addition, Alibaba is working to acquire one of China's largest online mapping providers for $1.1 billion.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

CMOs are talking the CX talk, but not yet walking the walk

Customer experience is eclipsing product as a competitive differentiator. CMOs are recognising this shift and talking the talk. But are they also walking the walk?

Will our manners go the same way as texting when robotic servants take over?

Much of the talk in the industry is focused on the limited amount of time that screens have left in our lives.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Social purpose: Oxygen for your brand health vitals

If trust is the new currency, then we’re in deep trouble. Here's why.

Carolyn Butler-Madden

Founder and CEO, Sunday Lunch

Welcome to AVANT LOANS, Do you need a genuine loan Online to secure your Bills? Starts a new business? Do you need a personal loan? or Bu...

Avant Loan

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 14 June 2018

Read more

The things who have mentioned are very convincing and will certainly work.

Lunna Walker

Xero evolves to fit a changing marketplace

Read more

Do you need a loan for Business? Debt? school loan? medical loan? Have you been denied of loans in the bank and other companies? then you...

larry

News Corp confirms CMO is out

Read more

The use of the virtual reality and the additional reality in marketing are only the first steps to the unlimited possibilities. When you ...

Viri VR

Treasury Wine Estates ramps up consumer engagement with augmented reality app portfolio

Read more

I have heel pain and need arch support for my tired feet. I first wore them around the house for an hour or two at a time, as suggested. ...

akshayv

Branded CEO: The power of the personal

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in