Zhihu (知乎), China’s Quora clone, and DianDian (点点), China’s Tumblr clone, have both recently moved into InnovationWorks, the startup incubator founded by Kaifu Lee. InnovationWorks is apparently incubating (hosting and mentoring) as well as investing in these firms, though terms have not yet been released.
Will InnovationWorks Become CloneWorks?
Zhihu and DianDian are following a common pattern of Chinese internet companies. Copy first, innovate later.
Zhihu faces imminent competition from internet giants Tencent and Baidu that are both working on their own versions of Quora-style question-and-answer products. So Zhihu will soon face fierce competition but must hope that it can win with its early-elite user base and execution.
Clones though they may be at present, I personally find myself rooting for these upstarts. On the Chinese internet it’s all too rare that David wins over Goliath (Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba), an environment that can’t be good for innovation either. In the interest of full disclosure, I have had the opportunity to meet with the founders of both Zhihu (Victor Zhou) and DianDian (Jack Xu).
By pooling resources, InnovationWorks aims to go give startups a few more weapons in their arsenal. In the case of a network service that needs to be seeded by tech elites, like Zhihu and DianDian, I think that initial support can be critical. Kaifu Lee alone has some celebrity power and can lend legitimacy to a service.
We’ll be certain to provide updates as Zhihu and DianDian localize, innovate, and combat competition. But for now I’m just happy more of my Chinese friends know what I’m talking about when I praise Quora or Tumblr, though they know the service by another name.
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