Sina invests in mutual help platform Bihu Huzhu as Alibaba and Tencent both make bets in the sector

Platforms like Bihu’s Gecko are popular among people who are priced out of conventional insurance plans.

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Chinese social media platform Sina has bought a 4.55% stake in Bihu Huzhu (“huzhu” means mutual help), media outlet Caijingtuya reported on Monday, citing changes in Bihu’s corporation registration information. The deal’s financial details have not been made public.

Bihu, which was set up in March 2015, runs a mutual help platform called Gecko (“Bihu” in Chinese). Gecko has cemented nearly 2.4 million aid deals among its users, channeling funds worth RMB 119 million to 1,339 individuals who have suffered critical illnesses or were injured in accidents. Gecko asks its users to pay around RMB 10 to join and has capped aid at RMB 9 per user for each deal.

While Gecko is designed for healthy people who want to hedge against potentially heavy financial pressure incurred by medical expenses related to sudden illnesses or accidents, Bihu also operates a crowdfunding platform called Nuoyan Chou, which is for people with existing medical conditions.

Nuoyan Chou has a feature differentiating it from similar platforms. Its users commit to do something good for society — such as donating blood, helping orphans, or even covering financial pledges that were promised to be repaid — in the next five to ten years. Nuoyan Chou has raised more than RMB 160 million from more than 5 million donors since going online in 2016.

As Bihu does not charge users that raise funds, Bihu hosts insurance products from insurers like Fosun Health and runs an e-commerce channel to monetize its user base.

Bihu is not alone in targeting those priced out of conventional insurance plans. Mutual help platform Xiang Hu Bao, a latecomer that is embedded in Ant Financial’s Alipay platform, acquired more than 80 million users in under ten months after launching in October 2018. Alibaba owns 33% of Ant Financial.

Shuidi, which also runs a mutual help platform and a crowdfunding platform, raised more than USD 144.5 million in its Series C round from investors including Tencent.

Bihu closed its Series B round in July 2018, bagging nearly RMB 100 million (USD 14 million) from investors including 9C Capital and Will Hunting Capital.