China’s Xiaomi Named World’s Most Valuable Tech Startup
Since its launch 4 years ago, Chinese consumer electronics maker Xiaomi has become the world’s most valuable tech startup. After recently raising $1.1 billion in funds from investors, Xiaomi is now valued at $45 billion, surpassing other popular startups like Uber. In fact, Xiaomi is now worth more than competitors Sony and Nokia, and worth nearly as much as Yahoo’s current marketshare.
Xiaomi’s co-founder and president Bin Lin confirmed the company’s valuation in a recent Facebook post, stating, “This is an affirmation of Xiaomi’s stellar results in four years, and heralds a new phase for the company.” Xiaomi’s strategy of offering inexpensive, yet high quality products has caused it to overtake big name competitors like Samsung and Apple in China, and the company is now focusing on expanding to markets in other countries.
Xiaomi’s Long-Term Strategy
From Xiaomi’s hardware to software design, it’s difficult to argue that the Chinese company hasn’t been more than just a little “inspired” by Apple. Xiaomi even copied Apple’s iconic “One more thing…” slide, and CEO Lei Jun can be seen wearing the same outfit Steve Jobs wore at Apple’s keynotes.
Of course, Apple has historically taken ideas from competitors too – such as Xerox’s graphical user interface and Android’s notification system, and Apple has received criticism for doing so. Similarly, Microsoft copied several elements of Apple’s OS for Windows. However, where companies like Apple and Microsoft have borrowed certain concepts from competitors, Xiaomi’s copying is a lot more systematic.
While China has IP laws, they are often criticised as being weaker and not properly enforced as similar laws in the West. As a result, Xiaomi can afford to copy Apple without fear of litigation. However, Xiaomi may have to rethink its strategy if it ever hopes to enter American and European markets. Interestingly, one of the company’s executives Hugo Barra has fiercely denied copying Apple, stating, “We’re not copying Apple’s products. End of story.” Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive has since shared his thoughts on Xiaomi.
“I’ll stand a little bit harsh, I don’t see [copying Apple] as flattery. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s going to work. You spend seven or eight years working on something, and then it’s copied. I have to be honest, the first thing I can think, all those weekends that I could have at home with my family but didn’t. I think it’s theft, and it’s lazy.”
Not all of Xiaomi’s products are Apple clones, however, such as the Mi TV – a powerful, smart 3D TV. If the company focuses on making more original products, Xiaomi may eventually reach westerners.
Xiaomi is a privately owned company, and with its recent valuation, many investors are expecting an initial public offering. However, as reported by The New York Times, company insiders have said that Xiaomi is still years away from an IPO.
For now, Xiaomi plans to use its new capital to expand to countries like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, and Mexico.
Images from TUAW and Wikimedia Commons.