China’s Newly Christened Unicorns in 2015

Jing Gao

The hi-tech industry is driving the Chinese economy. Official data shows the two trillion yuan e-commerce and e-services market served over 600 million Chinese internet users in 2014. The Zhongguancun technology hub in Beijing has been hailed as the new ‘Silicon Valley,’ with one industrial survey suggesting that as many as 50 new startups have appeared there since the end of 2014. has prepared the following list of Chinese startups with valuations exceeding US$1 billion for 2015.

1. Didi Chuxing


Photo from

Valuation: US$15 billion

Launched: February 2015

Founders: Cheng Wei (Didi), Lu Chuanwei (Kuaidi)

Main businesses: taxi-hailing & ride-sharing

Key investors: Ping An Ventures, Capital International Private Equity Fund and China Renaissance.

China’s largest two car-hailing service apps Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache merged back in February of this year to create Didi Kuaidi and the new joint entity has since seen significant growth. Didi’s service is built into Tencent’s popular WeChat social-networking app, an app with 500 million active users, whereas Kuaidi is nested in the mobile app of Alipay, an online-payment system run by Alibaba with more than 300 million users. Together, Didi Kuaidi, rebranded as Didi Chuxing, claims to serve totally 200 million people in over 300 Chinese cities through its taxi-hailing, premium-car, express car carpooling, chauffeur service and bus-sharing services.

This past July, the company raised US$2 billion in a new round of funding and has since been valued at US$15 billion. The recent investment it received managed to surpass a parallel investment round raised by U.S. car-hailing giant Uber, with Uber only managing to raise half that amount. Didi’s recent fundraising success even managed to eclipsed the previous fundraising record established by Facebook in 2011 with US$1.5 billion.

2. DJI


Photo from DJI

Valuation: US$8 billion

Founded: 2006

Founder: Wang Tao

Main business: Civilian Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Key investors: Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital

DJI’s drones have most recently gained fame following their use in the delivery of an engagement ring to world-renowned actress Zhang Ziyi at the behest of her singer fiance Wang Feng. In other news, a DJI drone sparked a security panic when a lone operator crashed one onto the lawn of the White House.

Founded in 2006, DJI’s product line has gradually grown to cover the vast majority of civilian drone components and modules. In 2012, DJI unveiled the PHANTOM, a miniature integrated flying system that allowed consumers to install their own GoPro camera’s, which opened up the market for aerial cinematography and photography. In May 2015, DJI completed a new round of financing totaling US$75 million helmed by venture capital firm Accel Partners, which puts its estimated value at US$8 billion.


3. ZhongAn Insurance


Valuation: US$8 billion

Founded: 2013

Main business: Online banking and insurance

Key investors: Alibaba, Tencent, Ping An

ZhongAn Insurance is backed by three big names: Jack Ma of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Pony Ma of online gaming and networking giant Tencent and Ma Mingzhe of PingAn Insurance, the world’s second largest insurer. In June 2015, just one year after the company was founded, ZhongAn raised nearly 60 million Chinese yuan and was valued at 50 billion yuan (US$8 billion).

ZhongAn operates solely online with no physical presence. It offers more than 100 insurance products, ranging from life and travel insurance to coverage for Xiaomi smartphones and DJI drones. In June 2015, ZhongAn Insurance processed more than 286 million service requests and wrote nearly two billion policies.



Valuation: US$1.6 billion

Founded: 2006

Founder: Zhu Mingyue

Main business: Outsourcing/crowdsourcing service platform

Key investors: Cybernaut (China) Investment, Chongqing New North Zone Administration Committee (state-owned)

Zhubajie was founded as a web-based system that allows clients to outsource projects to freelance software developers. In the past nine years, the website has grown substantially. It claims to comprise over 80 percent of China’s outsourcing/crowdsourcing market with 12 million registered users and a turnover of RMB 6.5 billion, although the 21st Century Business Herald pointed out in Zhubajie’s earnings report that its net profit for 2014 was RMB 3.76 million.

In June 2015, Zhubajie received a massive cash injection of RMB 2.6 billion, catapulting its value to $US1.6 billion. Immediately, the platform announced it would no longer collect the 20 percent commission. Instead of monetizing on crowdsourcing, the website is morphing into an incubator and service provider for businesses.

5. APUS Group


Photo courtesy of APUS

Valuation: US$1.5 billion

Founded: June 2014

Founder: Li Tao

Main business: Android application development

Key investors: Chengwei Capital, SIG, Qiming Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Northern Light Capital

Apus is a very young but rapidly growing company. Founded in June 2014, APUS – a startup focused on the overseas market – launched its first products in July and secured RMB 100 million in series A funding in the end of 2014. Shortly afterwards, in January 2015, APUS scored another $US100 million in a series B round led by Chengwei Capital, SIG and Qiming Venture Partners placing its valuation in excess of US$1.5 billion. APUS’ main products include Apus Launcher, Apus Boost, Apus Search and Apus Radar. According to an official company report from January 2015, Apus has reached the 100-million-user milestone, with more than 70 million monthly active users.



Valuation: US$1 billion

Founded: 2006

Founder: Ge Yongchang

Main business: online shopping coupon and rebate provider

Key investor: Rakuten, QiMing Venture Partners, SIG, Steamboat Ventures

On April 23, 2015, received a US$100 million investment from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten. The completion of Fanli’s series C round of financing marks the website’s admission into China’s Unicorn club.

Fanli’s initial business model was based on organizing sales and promotional events both online and offline for regional and international brands. In 2013, Fanli innovated its shopping guide and started to offer rebate and cashback rewards programs, transforming itself from a previously user-oriented e-commerce site to a brand and retailer-oriented service provider. Users who shop on any of the 400-plus retail websites that partner with Fanli, by navigating through its gateway, get as much as a 20 percent discount off their transaction totals. Currently the site sees more than three million unique daily visitors from its pool of 60 million registered users and facilitates over 1 billion Chinese yuan in rebates every month.

7. Tujia


Valuation: US$1 billion

Founded: 2011

Founder: Luo Jun (Justin Luo), Melissa Yang (Yang Mengtong)

Main business: vacation property rental and home-sharing.

Key investors: All-Stars Investment, Ascott, CDH Investments, China Broadband Capital Partners, China Renaissance Partners,, GGV Capital, HomeAway.

Though Tujia, translated as ‘Home on the Road,’ is often labeled ‘the Chinese Airbnb,’ its business model is more tailored toward the Chinese market and has a few distinct advantages over Airbnb. Tujia does its own offline quality control for its listings, including inspecting, cleaning and maintaining vacation homes, to make sure listings live up to their reputations and meet customer expectations. Tujia teams up with Chinese property developers to rent and run their unsold inventory as vacation homes. It even advises developers on how to build apartments that are more “tourist-friendly.”

Tujia boasts 310,000 listings, spanning 255 travel destinations across the whole of China. With U.S. vacation rental site HomeAway as an investor, Tujia has also been able to expand into 133 locations overseas, serving Chinese outbound tourists. In August 2015, Tujia raised US$300 million in its fourth round of fundraising bringing its valuation to more than US$1 billion.


Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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