Zhihu, the Chinese Quora-like question-and-answer platform, has been drafting a prospectus for an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong or the US, with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse as underwriters, local media outlet BT Finance reported on Wednesday, citing sources.
Founded in 2011, Zhihu, or “Do you know?” in Chinese, originally was a niche question-and-answer sharing site with a trustworthy reputation, and has grown over the years to be a more comprehensive content community with features like discussion roundtables, columns, live streaming, and shopping.
Zhihu responded with “no comments currently” when asked about the report. The company disclosed a USD 434 million Series F round last August, the biggest funding since its establishment. The financing was led by short-video app Kuaishou, with participation from search giant Baidu, bringing the overall capital raised to around USD 900 million, according to Chinese industry data tracker Itjuzi.
Zhihu’s backers include Tencent, Sinovation Ventures, Today Capital, China Renaissance, and SoftBank Asia Infrastructure Fund. It reached unicorn valuation as early as 2017, after raising USD 100 million in its Series D round. Founder Zhou Yuan is the largest shareholder with a 21.2% stake, while Sinovation Ventures holds 18.1%, and Tencent and Sogou 10.8% combined, according to Chinese market data platform Tianyancha. As of 2018, the site had more than 160 million registered and 26 million daily active users.
In recent years, the company has been adding more emphasis on monetization, when the fight for the attention of Chinese netizens heated up as Kuaishou, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu gained in popularity. Zhihu’s main revenue source is commercial advertising and knowledge services, such as memberships, e-books, and paid columns.
Zhihu also launched Chao, a lifestyle-sharing platform targeting males, and it rolled out livestreaming functions in 2019 to beef up its offerings. By the end of February, Zhihu claimed that the number of paid users grew by 400% compared to the same period in the year before, without disclosing an exact number.