“WE AIM to be the most customer-obsessed company in the world,” declares the opening line in the 700-page prospectus from Kuaishou, a Chinese video app. The firm, launched a decade ago by a former software engineer at Google and another at Hewlett-Packard, boasts more than 300m daily active users, up from an average of just 67m in 2017. On February 5th Kuaishou listed in Hong Kong to great fanfare: share prices surged by 161% after the first day, valuing the company at a cool $159bn. That instantly lifted it above better-known social-media titans like Twitter (worth $45bn) and Snap ($87bn). Kuaishou’s shares were more than 1,200 times oversubscribed by retail investors—a record for the city’s bourse.
Kuaishou’s revenues have soared in recent years, reaching 25bn yuan ($3.6bn) in the first six months of 2020, up by nearly half on the previous year. Just over two-thirds of this came from what the firm calls “live-stream gifting”. It hosted nearly 1bn live-streaming sessions in that period, taking a cut on “tips” that viewers shower on their favourite live-streamers. A tip can be as small as 10 fen (1.5 cents) or as generous as 2,000 yuan. Performers film themselves singing, dancing, otherwise prancing or just sunbathing. (Pornography is strictly prohibited.) New stars can expect to fork half of their tips over to the platform.