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

Latest Videos

More Videos

More Brand Posts

What a great help! You can also use apps like Connecteam to establish great leadership. Not only that your management of employees would ...

Kimberly Wise

Why kindness is the make or break for modern leadership

Read more

As an ex employee of 4 years during the growth of the company, I can say that the new management has benefitted the company tremendously,...

Harry

How JobAdder's CMO is bringing the human truth to B2B rebranding

Read more

So many words, so little business benefit.

Brett Iredale

How JobAdder's CMO is bringing the human truth to B2B rebranding

Read more

This article highlights Gartner’s latest digital experience platforms report and how they are influencing content operations ecosystems. ...

vikram Roy

Gartner 2022 Digital Experience Platforms reveals leading vendor players

Read more

Ms Bennett joined in 2017 yet this article states she waited until late 2020 to initiate a project to update the website. The solution t...

Munstar Cook

How Super SA put customers at the heart of its digital transformation

Read more

Blog Posts

The real cost of doing customer service badly

Headlines of unacceptable waiting times to get onto Qantas will have many brand owners, chief executives and boards thinking, ‘thank goodness that is not us’. But Qantas isn’t the only company being inundated with calls with no reprieve in sight, it’s just dominating headlines right now.

Kath Blackham

CEO, Versa

The 15 most-common persuasion mistakes

As workers across the country slowly head back to the office, many of us might have forgotten how to deal with one another in person and the best way to persuade someone in a working environment.

Michelle Bowden

Author, consultant

5 commonly missed opportunities when marketing to multicultural customers

The latest census data shows Australia has become a majority migrant nation for the first time. According to the new national data, more than 50 per cent of residents were born overseas or have a migrant parent.

Mark Saba

Founder and CEO, Lexigo

Sign in