Bullet Message to spend 1 billion yuan to acquire 100 million users as it aims to take on Tencent’s WeChat

Bullet is facing a ‘David and Goliath’ style battle with WeChat, which has become China’s ubiquitous do-it-all app with over 1 billion users worldwide

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018, 7:12am

Bullet Message, a new entrant to China’s messaging market that wants to challenge WeChat’s dominance, will spend 1 billion yuan (US$146 million) over the next six months in a push to acquire 100 million users, according to Chinese smartphone maker Smartisan’s chief executive Luo Yonghao.

Luo, whose company invested in and launched Bullet, posted on his Weibo account on Thursday that Bullet has gained 7 million users since launch nearly three weeks ago and that it would be investing 1 billion yuan more to acquire new users. Luo, a former English teacher and an internet celebrity in China, is known for his entertaining launch events.

Smartisan officially launched the app last month and is an investor in Kuairu Technology, the Beijing-based firm which originally developed Bullet Message.

“As a new app that is not fully ready, Bullet Messaging has achieved unbelievable results in the past ten-plus days,” Luo wrote on his Weibo account. “Next we will focus on stability, hiring and readying the core functions. In two weeks, we will begin spending 1 billion over six months to [gain] 100 million users.”

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Bullet Message is facing a “David and Goliath” style battle with Tencent Holdings’ WeChat, which has become China’s ubiquitous do-it-all app with more than 1 billion users worldwide. WeChat started out as a simple messaging service in China, but it has since morphed into a broad platform that includes mobile payments, games, services and mini-programs that enable users to access services like food delivery and ride-hailing without having to download additional apps.

The company did not immediately respond to questions about Luo’s Weibo post.

Luo previously said on Weibo that uninstalling WeChat is “not realistic”, but revealed that the company may integrate Alipay, the mobile payments service operated by Alibaba Group Holding’s affiliate Ant Financial Services, into Bullet Message. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

In its first week following an August 20 launch, Bullet Message shot up Apple’s app store charts in China, ranking No 1 as the most downloaded free app on App Annie. Since then download growth has slowed and as of Friday, the messaging app ranked No. 72 on the same chart.

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Kuairu Technology raised 150 million yuan in Series A funding from Gaorong Capital, Chengwei Capital and Smartisan, well away from Tencent, a Chinese tech behemoth with a current market capitalisation of around HK$3 trillion (US$382 billion).

Bullet has also been criticised by some users for lax restrictions on the type of content that it has on its news feeds.

“My first impression is that it’s full of porn and stuff that’s blocked or too sensitive for WeChat,” said Matthew Brennan at China Channel, a Shenzhen-based marketing agency, in a tweet.

But the app also has features that make it more convenient than WeChat. The app can automatically transcribe voice messages to text with iFlytek’s voice recognition technology, whereas WeChat users have to select a voice message manually for transcription.