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China now has the world’s most valuable startup

A new $3 billion round of investment led by SoftBank has crowned China’s Bytedance the world’s most valuable startup, Bloomberg reports. Bytedance, the owner of popular karaoke video app TikTok and huge Chinese news aggregator Toutiao, is now valued at $75 billion, which takes it past Uber’s most recent figure of $72 billion.

Uber is reported to be considering an IPO for next year that would value it at $120 billion, but for now Bytedance is on top, which is a huge achievement for a company that until recently had very little presence outside China. TikTok, which was acquired as Musical.ly and merged into Bytedance’s own Douyin service as TikTok, is a major sensation among teens in the West, and has apparently already achieved the social media rite of passage of having Facebook attempt to clone it.

Toutiao, meanwhile, is one of the most prominent apps in China, with hundreds of millions of daily and monthly active users. The app uses AI to aggregate and recommend news stories, and makes money for Bytedance through advertising in the feed. Bytedance made $2.5 billion in revenue last year, according to Bloomberg’s figures, but like most startups in its position is not yet profitable.

Toutiao and Bytedance have fallen foul of Chinese government censors this year; the news app was temporarily removed from app stores while another app, the satirical meme-focused Neihan Duanzi, was shut down altogether. Bytedance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming published an open letter apologizing for “publishing a product that collided with core socialist values.”

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