The news that LinkedIn China has closed its China-centric social networking app Chitu has prompted a public back-and-forth between LinkedIn China president Jian Lu and Lin Fan, CEO of China’s largest domestic professional network Mai Mai.

Commenting on the challenge posed by Mai Mai, Jian Lu focused on the company’s employer review channel, noting that “[Mai Mai] is just LinkedIn with the veneer of anonymity.” In an extended response (in Chinese), Lin Fan said that only around 9% of Mai Mai’s DAUs are posting in the platform’s anonymous section. “The anonymous section,” he added, “isn’t just about gossip.” Ironically, however, the URL for this section does end in the tag “gossip_list”.

Mai Mai pitches itself as a hybrid between a professional network and a personal network — “personal connections and professional connections” in its terminology — alluding to LinkedIn’s reputation in China for having a stuffy and self-promoting atmosphere. Mai Mai’s three major sections are job-hunting, network-building, and the anonymous community. The anonymous section is oriented around themed discussion groups. Workers in coding and programming, for example, can get together to share information on their industry, salaries and so on.

At a time in which excessively harsh white-collar working conditions are at the very forefront of the national discussion in China, this approach has surely played a role in the platform’s strong user growth. According to the Sootoo Institute, Mai Mai had 87.5 million app downloads in H2 2018 while Chitu had only 440,000. LinkedIn China CTO Wang Di, head of the team behind the Chitu app, resigned in mid-2018.

According to a company presentation, Mai Mai derives most of its revenue from advertising and recruitment services (job postings). The network has more than 50 million users — an increase from just 800,000 users in 2014. Mai Mai is the second -largest professional social network in the world and has more China users than LinkedIn (41 million). Its $200 million U.S. series D investment, finalized in April, was the largest single private placement in the professional networking market to date, globally.

A company representative has now confirmed that the site is looking to list on a U.S. exchange in the second half of 2019. The listing will be accompanied by a push to enter more overseas markets, although it has yet to confirm which markets are in the running.

Mai Mai received a $75 million U.S. cash injection in a Series C funding round led by Zhaopin in November 2017. Zhaopin looks to have cashed in on a winning ticket if CEO Evan Guo is to be believed. Guo has stated that Mai Mai’s funding goal for the IPO is $10 billion U.S. This will surely prove inflated, but it is worth noting that Mai Mai has already been profitable for the past two years — something LinkedIn has still not achieved.



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