The purchase of the Oslo-based Opera browser by a conglomerate of Chinese companies for US$1.2 billion took many by surprise. Not Shanghai-based VC William Bao Bean, who sees the purchase as a logical step in the fierce competition in China, he tells in Quartz.
Opera has a lot in common with the Chinese utility app makers. Its smartphone browsers, particularly Opera Mini, are designed to appeal to users in poor countries like India, where cheap Android phones are ubiquitous and consumers are price sensitive, CEO Lars Boilesen re-iterated in the company’s most recent earnings call (link to video). Opera Mini has become popular with consumers by compressing data and allowing pages to load quickly and less expensively than other browsers. To date, it has over 100 million users.
William Bao Bean, an investor at venture capital firm SOS Ventures, tells Quartz that buying opera would give Kunlun and Qihoo “much greater reach.” “The browser is a trojan horse for control of the smartphone,” he says. If Chinese internet companies can’t develop their own products to win over consumers abroad, purchasing popular ones is a fallback option.
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