The global market for collaborative apps reached $16.5 billion last year. ByteDance to launch Google-ike work tools during outbreak.
ByteDance is ready to roll out a Google-like work tools soon as this month. The Shanghai-based hi-tech company already became the world’s most valuable startup on the strength of its viral consumer apps like TikTok and news aggregator Toutiao, but last year the company quietly released a remote-work app called Lark (Feishu in China) that combined elements of Slack, Dropbox, Google Docs and Skype.
Today ByteDance is preparing to release a suite of tools that marks an overhaul of its approach to work software, focusing mostly on cloud-based file management and document and spreadsheet editing, like Google’s G Suite.
According to IDC data, the global market for collaborative apps grew from $14.8 billion in 2018 to $16.5 billion last year. The global market for video conferencing alone is estimated to reach US$6.7 billion by 2025, according to a separate report by US consulting firm Grand View Research in August. Even with strong national and international competitors, ByteDance has room for growth and the company has the added incentive of a sudden spurt in demand in China.
The Covid-19 outbreak has pushed almost 400 millions of Chinese white-collars out of offices. Thus China’s virus lockdown triggered a spike in demand for remote work apps.
On the first day back at work, tens of millions of users overwhelmed the servers of DingTalk and WeChat Work, two of China’s most widely used workplace apps by Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent respectively, by attempting to start the day with virtual morning meetings. Enterprise-facing technologies such as messaging and productivity tools are increasingly prevalent in China. The coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented number of workers forced to work remotely became a stress test. The jump in remote workers, even temporary, has also created an unexpected opportunity for service providers to acquire new users.
Just like its larger rivals, ByteDance has responded swiftly to soaring demand. In February, the company offered enterprise users its premium Feishu — which translates to “flying message” — functions for free during the outbreak.
ByteDance originally created Feishu-Lark as an internal tool, but the enterprise wing of its app factory is becoming instrumental to its bid to grow beyond consumer tech. The division now has a team of more than 1,700 people, led by Vice President Xie Xin. “We expect this kind of business to be heavily loss-making in the near term,” said Ke Yan, a Singapore-based analyst with Aequitas Research.
According to Bloomberg, Lark has only experienced modest traction in its biggest overseas markets including the US., Singapore and India. By focusing on the local China market first and targeting individual users, ByteDance will try to capture the latent demand in the country that’s been catalyzed by the coronavirus, said the people familiar with its plans. It also won’t have to compete with the original G Suite, which has the advantage of incumbency and billions of Google accounts that the Alphabet Inc. company can advertise to.
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