The World's Most Valuable Startup Is a Company You've Probably Never Heard of
In a fourth-quarter upset, China's Bytedance (parent of music video app TikTok) has overtaken Uber as the world’s most valuable startup.
After closing a $3 billion funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank group, Bytedance -- which also owns Chinese news aggregator Toutiao and a host of other social media apps -- has reached a reported $75 billion valuation. Its closest competition, Uber Technologies, falls $3 billion short of that benchmark, according to CB Insights, a tech market intelligence platform. Uber is reportedly vying for an IPO in 2019 that could boost its value to $120 billion, but Bytedance holds top billing for now.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming launched his startup without any sort of funding injection from Chinese internet giants Alibaba or Tencent -- an especially noteworthy achievement since the popularity of Bytedance’s TikTok now extends far beyond China. Yiming launched the app -- known as Douyin in China but branded as TikTok in foreign markets -- in 2016, when he saw Vine-like short karaoke videos on the rise. It acquired competitor Musical.ly in 2017 and now boasts more than half a billion users -- about 40 percent of them outside China.
One of the startup’s other golden eggs, Toutiao, uses artificial intelligence to curate personalized news feeds of the day’s headlines for as many as 120 million daily users. Toutiao recently caught the attention of Chinese regulators, who temporarily removed it from app stores in April after it reportedly ran afoul of “socialist core values.” Zhang announced that he would increase the number of people working to review content from 6,000 to 10,000.
Last year, Bytedance was valued around $20 billion. This new status isn’t just a landmark for a Chinese startup -- it’s also a valuation jump of 275 percent.