Codoon, the largest social sports platform in China, is pushing into the United States market after closing a $50M funding round. One of its apps, Runtopia, has 40M active users in the country, and Codoon has turned to Israeli mobile advertising platform Taptica to push it in the American market, driving user installs through Facebook. Could this be a sign of increased Chinese interest in breaking into the US digital market, and a continuing trend of Israel serving as a bridge between the East and West?
Runtopia connects users with an app that tracks runs, shares exercises and helps running enthusiasts meet each other, and contains a GPS and sensor for tracking. And there are plenty of running enthusiasts in the U.S.: in 2015, there were an estimated 60 million active joggers and runners in the country, with thousands of marathons and half-marathons taking place each year.
And while running apps are nothing new to Americans, Codoon is hoping to impress the American market with what they believe is superior technology. “The love of running knows no cultural barriers – we are targeting all running enthusiasts to enjoy Runtopia, who generally tend to be young professionals and smart device users,” said Xiaoyun Wu, Head of Sales and Operations for the APAC region at Taptica.
But for that to happen, the company needed a partner capable of providing a wide range of traffic sources. Enter Taptica and its proprietary technology, which leverages big data to enable targeting at scale so that brands can engage with mobile audiences, and has worked with companies like Amazon, Disney, Facebook, Twitter, OpenTable, Expedia, Lyft and Zynga.
Sports platform Codoon has the majority market share in China, and wants to expand in the U.S.
James Si, a vice president at Codoon, explained that Taptica’s acquisition of AreaOne, a long term Facebook Marketing Partner badge holder, made the company very attractive to them, as the company is “equipped with both the ad technology platform that fully automate Facebook advertising and its powerful DMP, which is fueled by the repository of big data from billions of impressions driven from the mobile campaigns.”
Codoon was also attracted to the fact that “Taptica has a truly international team, the perfect mixture of the West and the East,” and that “Taptica’s Beijing local office in Beijing provides warm, timely service to us, while Taptica’s American and Israeli team help us to understand the consumer habits and the marketing techniques of the West.”
Wu added: “With our headquarters in Israel, along with offices in San Francisco, New York, Beijing and Seoul – we are truly an international company and we’ve localized in China so there is a blend of cultural and business similarities that help us work well together.”
Israel Serves As Tech Hub, Bridge Between East and West
Israel has long been held in “high esteem as a hub of innovation,” said Wu. He also explained that China is taking advantage of Israel’s access to innovation to learn as much as possible to “position itself in an innovation economy,” while Israel also takes advantage of the relationship to learn about opportunities in the East.
China had long sowed the seed for innovation in the digital era.
“Israelis are more culturally similar to the Chinese than to the Americans, which facilitates negotiations and ongoing business relationships. We’ve heard over and over from our Chinese partners that the Israeli ‘can do’ attitude is something they can easily identify with.” Wu added.
According to Si, Codoon has wanted to build up the Runtopia app for the American market from the get-go, signaling increased Chinese interest in the Western market. “We designed a totally different product for the American users,” Si said, based on the understanding that running habits are different in the United States than in China, “where the population is much more dense and concentrated in the cities.”
To these ends, Taptica’s proprietary technology leverages big data and machine learning to provide quality media targeting at scale, and designed full sets of creative based on the core audience of American runners, combined with automated keyword optimization, “which has nicely given us the best bang for our marketing dollars,” Si added. “In the future, we may develop further specialized applications: for example, we may even enhance the user experience by designing wearable devices for seniors that are less used to smartphones.”
Encouraged By Innovation, Chinese Will Push Into American Digital Market
According to Si, “going into the West is an important strategic move” for Codoon, and Runtopia plays a large role in that strategy for expansion: taking advantage of American users’ enthusiasm for running. “We are on the way to build one of the most interesting product in the world. We will keep on updating our product to meet American users’ needs,” Si elaborated.
Chinese development and innovation is moving at a very fast pace – they are leading the way in mobile – and it will be interesting to see how their globalization efforts change the mobile landscape in the years to come.
But why are companies like Codoon pushing into the United States now? The answer is simple, in Codoon’s case: the company has the majority market share in China, and wants to expand. “This is a trend that we’re seeing from lots of innovative Chinese companies that are exporting superior mobile apps and sharing them globally,” Wu said.
In general, Wu asserted that the Chinese tech industry is focused on figuring out how to crack into Western markets.“They are not only becoming more comfortable with expansion, but they are becoming very good at globalization,” he said. While there are still cultural barriers that “can’t be overcome solely through technology,” partnerships like that between Codoon/Runtopia and Taptica are critical “because cracking culture is about working with people who have unique local knowledge.”
“Chinese development and innovation is moving at a very fast pace – they are leading the way in mobile – and it will be interesting to see how their globalization efforts change the mobile landscape in the years to come,” Wu said, expressing excitement for what could be to come.
Si agreed that “there is a lot of brain power in China, making promising products at an astonishing speed.” And since China has a huge population base, applications are updated by users constantly, and consequently, Chinese developers are very skilled. “China had long sowed the seed for innovation in the digital era,” Si concluded.