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Venture capital switches to online-to-offline deals

By Cai Xiao | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2015-02-15 13:37

Venture capital investors are increasingly turning their attention toward online deals in China, but they still regard offline capability as a venture's most important asset.

O2O, also known as online-to-offline e-commerce, allows Internet users to see information on websites, which encourages them to brick-and-mortar stores rather than virtual outlets.

Wang Mingyao, executive director of Legend Star, a Chinese leading venture capital company, says it has invested in more than 50 deals in the technology, media and telecom sectors, and around 40 percent of these are related to O2O.

"O2O is of great potential because it transforms traditional sectors with the Internet, especially those involved in upgrading consumption," says Wang.

"We pay attention to the offline service quality and the team the most," says Wang, stressing that O2O is a technology, while the nature of the business is the most important.

Wang says investment in O2O-related deals has been very popular in China since the start of 2014, with Internet giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc bringing their fat wallets to the table.

For instance, popular taxi-hailing app Kuaidi Dache, backed by Alibaba, said in January that it had raised $600 million from SoftBank Group, Alibaba and Tiger Global Management LLC to strengthen its position in the hotly contested market.

Didi Dache, backed by Tencent, Singapore government investment firm Temasek Holdings and DST Global, raised $700 million in its fourth round of fundraising in December.

According to Wang, some O2O-related deals are expensive and do not have good offline capabilities, but they are still pursued by capital, which raises risks.

Hu Boyu, a partner at Beijing-based venture capital firm BlueLake Capital, says about half of its investment deals are related to O2O.

"When investing in O2O-related deals, we look at the market size and demand, business pattern and team," says Hu.

According to Hu, good O2O deals can take advantage of mobile phones to improve efficiency and the user experience, and the frequency of usage should be high.

Hu forecasts that O2O service deals will be booming in 2015 in sectors with a high frequency of usage, such as housekeeping, taxi-hailing, meal ordering, beauty and health.

There were more than 40 O2O deals in 2014, with each raising more than 100 million yuan ($16.1 million; 14.1 million euros), including meal-ordering, group-buying site Meituan and wine e-seller, according to data from

O2O market volume can be as much as several trillion yuan, including 800 billion yuan from home furnishing and textiles, 615.3 billion yuan from clothing and 230 billion yuan from cosmetics, according to Song Wei, cofounder of the Global Mobile Internet Conference.


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