China's Alibaba invests $215 million in Tango messaging app

Alibaba will get a seat on Tango's board of directors, and hold a minority stake

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is investing US$215 million to acquire a minority stake and a seat in the board of Tango, a mobile messaging app from the U.S.

The investment announced Thursday by the Chinese company follows investments by some other Internet companies in mobile messaging apps. Last month, Facebook announced it would spend $16 billion to buy WhatsApp, a rival product also out of the U.S.

Days before that deal was announced, Japan's Rakuten said it would buy messaging app Viber for $900 million.

As smartphone use is soaring, tech companies across the world are scrambling for products that can attract millions of mobile Internet users. In China, Alibaba has been making more of its e-commerce services available on smartphones and tablets by developing apps, and even its own mobile OS.

Alibaba did not discuss how it intends to benefit from its investment in Tango. 31 percent of the app's users come from North America, while another 29 percent are from the Middle East.

Over the last six months, Alibaba has been investing in U.S. Internet companies it believes are promising. These include ShopRunner, an online retailer, and Quixey, a search engine for apps.

In a statement, Joe Tsai, Alibaba's executive vice chairman, said the e-commerce giant was "blown away" by Tango's vision and the quality of its team.

But according to a source familiar with the matter, one of the reasons Alibaba invested in Tango was because of its engineering expertise in mobile messaging.

Tango, which has 70 million monthly active users, works as an app that can enable video and voice calls, along with text messaging. Alibaba hopes to learn from Tango, and the company could even one day use its technology, although no such plans have been made yet, the source said.

In China, Alibaba has its own messaging app called Laiwang that competes against WeChat, a messaging app from local rival Tencent. WeChat already has 355 million monthly active users, and Tencent is spending millions on promoting the app outside of China.

The rivalry between Alibaba and Tencent has heated up recently. Earlier this month, Tencent announced it would join forces with Chinese online retailer JD.com, as part of a deal that could challenge Alibaba's hold over the local market. With Tencent's WeChat, the company has a popular app that can be tied to e-commerce functions such as making online purchases, or hosting advertisements for vendors.

Alibaba has been making its own investments in China to buttress its mobile business. Last year, it bought a stake in Sina Weibo, one of China's largest social networking sites, as a way to promote its e-commerce services. In addition, Alibaba is working to acquire one of China's largest online mapping providers for $1.1 billion.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags business issuesmobile applicationsAlibaba Groupmobileinvestments

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?