Momo (Chinese: 陌陌; pinyin: mò mò) is a free location-based services instant messaging application for smartphones and tablets. The app allows users to chat with nearby friends and strangers. Momo provides users with free instant messaging services through Wifi, 3G and 4G. The client software is available Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Momo Inc. officially began operations in July 2011, and one month later launched the first version of the app for iOS. Tang Yan is the current CEO of Momo Inc. Momo Inc. filed for a U.S. IPO on November 7, 2014.
Founding and incorporation
Tang Yan, Zhang Sichuan, Lei Xiaoliang, Yong Li, and Li Zhiwei co-founded Beijing Momo Technology Co., Ltd., better known as Beijing Momo, in July 2011. Prior to founding Beijing Momo, Tang Yan worked as editor and then editor-in-chief at NetEase, Inc.. In October 2014, Tang was named by Fortune Magazine as one of its “40 Under 40,” a list of the most powerful business elites under the age of 40. The other co-founders all have prior experience with major Chinese Internet companies. In order to facilitate foreign investments, Beijing Momo’s co-founders, in November 2011, incorporated a holding company, Momo Technology Company Limited, registered the British Virgin Islands. In July 2014, Momo Technology Company Limited was renamed Momo Inc. and redomiciled to the Cayman Islands. In December 2011, Momo Inc. established Momo Technology HK Company Limited (Momo HK) as a wholly owned subsidiary in Hong Kong. In March 2012, Momo HK established Beijing Momo Information Technology Co., Ltd.(Beijing Momo IT), a wholly owned People’s Republic of China subsidiary. In May 2013, Beijing Momo established Chengdu Momo Technology Co., Ltd.(Chengdu Momo), as a wholly owned subsidiary. Momo Inc. recently formed a Delaware subsidiary, which is currently market research on the U.S. market.
In December 2011, Momo announced reaching half a million users. Three months later, the number of Momo users reached 2 million. Momo reached 10 million users on its first anniversary in August 2012. In October 2012, Momo surpassed 15 million users. In 2014, App Annie reported that Momo was the number 2 non-game app of 2013 in terms of revenue. In February 2014, TechNode reported that Momo had announced reaching 100 million registered users. Momo executives also claimed they had reached 40 million monthly active users (MAU). According to Momo Inc., in June 2014, total registered users and MAU reached 148 million and 52.4 million respectively. China Internet Watch reported more conservative estimates. In the months of August and September 2014, Momo had 51.279 and 52.101 million MAU. While Momo’s MAU grew, Wechat and QQ both lost MAU within the same time frame. Momo Inc.’s prospectus reported 60.2 million MAU in September 2014. Despite consistent growth in revenue, Momo Inc. continues to record net losses.
Momo Inc. reportedly raised USD 2.5 million in Series A financing. Angel investor, Buttonwood Capital, and Matrix Hong Kong led this round of financing. However, Momo Inc.'s Form F-1 filed with the SEC reports that USD 5 million was raised in this round of financing. Momo Inc. completed its Series B financing in October 2012. This round of financing was led by two institution investors and received $100 million valuation. China Renaissance Partners acted as the exclusive financial advisor. There was much speculation as to whether or not Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group, was involved in this round of financing. Momo Inc.’s registration statement verifies this claim. In total, Momo Inc. raised approximately USD 40 million. In October 2013, raised USD 45 million in Series C financing. Matrix Hong Kong, Gothic Partners, L.P., PJF Acorn I Trust, Gansett Partners, L.L.C., PH momo investment Ltd., Tenzing Holding 2011 Ltd., Alibaba Investment Limited, and DST Team Fund Limited were all issued and sold Series C preferred shares. In May 2014, Momo Inc. raised USD 211.8 million in Series D financing. Momo Inc. sold Series D preferred shares to Sequoia Capital China Investment Holdco II, Ltd., Sequoia Capital China GF Holdco III-A, Ltd., SC China Growth III Co-Investment 2014-A, L.P., Rich Moon Limited, and Tiger Global Eight Holdings.
Product and services
Momo Inc.’s mobile application is available on Android, iOS, and Windows platforms. It enables users to establish and expand their social relationships based on similar locations and interests. Some features of the application include subsections like: Nearby Users, Groups, Message Board, Topics, and Nearby Events. Users can send multi-media instant messages as well as play single and multi-player games within the app’s platform. Users also make a Facebook-like profile and are encouraged to include as much information as possible. Momo execs claim that this allows their software to create more accurate matches with nearby strangers. Momo prides itself on sifting through the clutter of mobile Internet users to find personalized matches for its users. Momo offers users paid membership subscriptions. A membership will cost around USD 2 a month, or less if a user commits to a longer term of use. Benefits of a paid membership includes: VIP logos, advanced search options, discounts in the emoticon store, higher limits on maximum users in a group, and the ability to see a list of recent visitors to a user’s profile page. As of September 30, 2014, there was 2.3 million paid subscriptions. Like many other instant messaging services, Momo Inc. has integrated mobile games into their platform to monetize off their large user base. Third parties develop games, and revenues from in-game purchases are shared between Momo Inc. and the developers.
In August 2014, Momo Inc. launched Dao Dian Tong, a marketing tool for local merchants. Through Dao Dian Tong, local businesses and merchants can construct profile pages that allow Momo users to find them with the Momo’s LBS. Members can see the businesses just as they would see other Momo users. Momo Inc. plans to further monetize user traffic by referring users from the Momo platform to e-commerce companies. Alibaba was specifically mentioned in Momo’s Form F-1.
Corporate affairs and cultures
Statement made by NetEase
On December 10, 2014, Momo's founder and CEO Tang Yan's former employer NetEase released a statement, accusing that Tang Yan has professional ethic issues, business ethics issues, and has been detained due to personal affairs by the local police in 2007.
Hook-ups and homeless dogs
On April 27, 2012, Mike Sui, a mixed-race comedian and performer in China, first posted his "12 Beijingers" viral video which attracted nearly 5.17 million hits. In this video, one character mentions Momo, for the first time calling it a magical tool to get laid (Chinese: 约炮神器; pinyin: yuē páo shén qì ). Momo Inc. has spent millions of dollars to reverse the image of Momo as a one-night stand app. Momo, through its Weibo account, continues to engage the online community through various campaigns. Momo’s latest online campaign focused on supporting the homeless cats and dogs of China.
A new way to build a relationship
Although Momo is widely considered as adult social application, there are couples claiming that meetings on Momo resulted in marriage. Momo now focuses on building all types of relationships, and no longer propagates itself as exclusively a monogamous relationship building applications.
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