Innovation, China’s New Motto in the Mobile Era

In the beginning, Koala focused on popular podcasts and talk shows. After analyzing users’ data and interests, it soon added more categories like news, music, and sports. Now, a 160-person team from the parent company Auto Radio produces content for Koala, over 500 DJs across the country produce exclusive music for it, and several famous sports presenters are also invited to chair programs. In addition, Koala invested much on purchasing copyrights. It owns those of over half of China’s Top 100 podcast Charts by iTunes, and so avoids unexpected legal troubles.  

As of April 2014, the Koala FM, less than a year old, had over 10 million registered users, and about a million daily active users, who typically spend as much as 40 minutes per day on Koala.  

For Yu, “everyday we think: innovation, innovation!” People in the mobile internet circle always say that in the desktop internet era, a generation means three years, while in the mobile internet era, it is only one year. Yu recalled that when he worked on portal websites it took a week to make a decisive agreement. But now, he quipped, if you wait for a week the product will die. 

By late 2013, Auto Radio had decided its next step. It purchased DZG, a famous navigation app with over six million downloads. Now the latest version of DZG has integrated with Koala FM. When using navigation, users can at the same time listen to Koala.  

Now, the Koala team has an even bolder plan – to install the app in car entertainment systems. When turning on the car radio, drivers can find Koala next to the FM radio. The infinite possibilities of the mobile internet have inspired the team’s imagination. They are thinking about transmitting information such as road conditions, restaurants, parking lots and gas stations based on the user’s position. In addition, cooperating with real stores and introducing users to stores and activities based on their positions is also under the Koala team’s consideration. This will more accurately target their advertisements.  


China’s Chance to Be an Innovation Center

For a long time, China impressed the world as a “manufacturing country” – good at imitating but bad at innovating. However, in the mobile internet era, thanks to the popularity of smart phones in China and a huge development space brought by high tech, Chinese IT companies are facing an excellent opportunity for development. “This is an opportunity to re-shuffle the internet field,” said Tony Ma, CEO of Tencent.  

As the smart phone can be carried, it actually becomes an extension of our sense organs – the camera is an extension of our eyes, touch screen an extension of tactile senses, and microphone an extension of the mouth. The internet connects the extended senses. So, for the first time, people and people, people and instruments, even people and services are linked up. Through mobile terminals, the internet is able to integrate with all traditional industries, inaugurating the development of “mobile internet plus.” 

Trans-boundary thinking has inspired imagination and innovation among Chinese IT companies. The Koala FM, in fact, is a product of “mobile internet plus traditional radio.” Over 20 days after Koala’s birth, a radio app called Swell kicked off on the North American Apple’s app store. It is similar to the Koala in both form and function.  

“Everyone copies. Chinese companies copy and improve. Copy and improve, that is innovation,” said Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote and famous for his creativeness in Silicon Valley. “That’s what Apple does. That’s what Microsoft does. That’s what Facebook does. Very few companies start with a first of the kind idea.”

Libin set up a branch office in China two years ago to serve four million registered users here. This is his second overseas office after Japan. But in 2012, China left Japan far behind, and became the first overseas market of Evernote. “China now is shifting from a labor-intensive to knowledge-intensive society.” He thinks that China has a huge number of young people with good education who are likely to use information technology in their careers. This elevates their productivity and adds momentum to a growing trend.

“I firmly believe that China will be the crucible of innovation over the next decade,” Libin said on the first anniversary of his Beijing office. A huge market, energetic IT talents … they make China’s pulse race in the mobile era.


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