After about more than a year of market speculations, Beijing-based ByteDance – the operator behind AI-based popular Chinese apps like Douyin and Toutiao – has now made a move to fuel the suspicions by registering three financial technology-related trademarks on December 6, according to Chinese media.
Insurance & financial services and small loan products are some of the areas that ByteDance has sought to trademark. Specifically, they are called Zijiefu (BytePay), Qingli Installment, and Wuxian Installment respectively, according to SCMP citing search results from China’s national intellectual property administration today.
Since 2017, there were already rumours of ByteDance’s ambitions to leverage its wide user base to offering loan services. Safe Lending, apparently, is one example. ByteDance’s users can borrow up to RMB 2 million (US$30,000) daily on Safe Lending. ByteDance claimed then that Bank of Nanjing was one of its loan partners. However, that dream was quickly shattered over in a matter of months after the crumble of China’s peer-to-peer lending space (P2P).
A spokesperson for ByteDance declined to comment.
Founded in 2012, ByteDance is revolutionary because of one major feat: relying on artificial intelligence technology, it successfully changed the game in China’s social media market, becoming a potent competitor against the long-dominant Tencent.
While the markets remain jittery following the Sino-US trade war and a couple of other factors, this startup rose to an eye-popping valuation of US$75 billion in the process. It is also moving rapidly beyond China and is quickly breaking ground in countries like the US, all thanks to its international short video app Tik Tok. By June 2018, ByteDance already claims to be servicing 500 million monthly active users globally.
That said, with domestic internet market saturating, it might be getting more challenging for ByteDance to maintain its stellar growth, and it seems to be on active mode to look for other growth opportunities, beyond just Tik Tok. Just last week, we reported of its intention to go head-on against Tencent’s WeChat. And now, there is yet more news again of ByteDance, this time to continue its foray into fintech.
Whether these moves will work still remains to be seen. Other Chinese tech giants like Didi, Tencent, and Alibaba are all undergoing major restructurings to boost efficiency. Even the HK-listed Meituan has conceded and is now threading more carefully when it comes to taking on new experiments, preferring to stay focus on its core food delivery market. While ByteDance has proven to be the startup that defies these odds, it might have to navigate through growing uncertainty in the fintech space due to tightening regulations which have long become a hurdle for even existing players.
Editor: Ben Jiang