Days after launch, a messenger app to rival WeChat raises $22m

Backed by smartphone company Smartisan, this chat app is poised to rival market leader WeChat.

By

Days after launch, a messenger app to rival WeChat raises $22m

Chat app Bullet Messaging (or Zidan Duanxin 子弹短信), backed by Beijing-based smartphone maker Smartisan, has raised US$22 million in a Series A financing round just days after it went live on August 20th.

That’s according to Smartisan’s CEO Luo Yonghao who made the announcement on social media platform Weibo on Tuesday. He didn’t mention who the investors are. Bullet messaging is developed by a startup called Kuairu, but it’s supported by Smartisan.

Bullet Messaging immediately became the top-ranked free app on China’s iOS app store, according to data from analytics firm App Annie. It could grow into a rival to Tencent’s WeChat, which is currently the leading messaging service used by Chinese smartphone users.

According to Luo, Bullet Messaging wants to integrate Alipay, which would allow Chinese users to use the ubiquitous mobile money in a messenger app. WeChat uses WeChat Pay.

However, Luo downplays a possible head-on rivalry. In a separate Weibo post, he noted that Bullet Messaging targets a niche of people who care about communication efficiency, whereas WeChat is more mainstream. One difference is that Bullet Messaging uses voice-to-text technology, whereas WeChat users typically use the walkie-talkie function to communicate (transcription is available, but requires more effort than what Bullet Messaging offers).

Takeaways:

— Chat service Bullet Messaging is off to a good start and seems to have raised US$22 millions in its Series A round. It is currently the most downloaded free app in China’s iOS App Store.

— Luo Yonghao, founder of Smartisan, a smartphone company backing Bullet Messaging, said that the new chat app isn’t trying to compete with WeChat and that it is targeting a more niche market. However, he also said Bullet Messenger wants to integrate Alipay, a mobile wallet that’s in a rival to WeChat Pay.

— Bullet Messenger still has a lot of catching up to do. Tencent-owned WeChat is the clear market leader for mobile and online chat in China. In March, its CEO Pony Ma said there are currently a billion accounts on WeChat.

Editor: Nadine Freischlad