Cheetah Mobile chief talks about running fast

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Just five years ago, it was a small company making apps on the Web in China. Formed from the merger of two small companies, it started with revenues of $5 million. This year, revenues should be about $600 million, mostly from mobile.

“Three years ago, we made it our dream to take our mobile business global,” CEO Sheng Fu said, speaking on global mobile innovation at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. “I looked at every app in Google Play. I found a very small one in the utilities category.”

About 70 percent of the Beijing company’s 500 million monthly active users are from outside of China.

The company created the Clean Master utility app to clean the junk files off your phone and boost available memory. The app has been downloaded 1.3 billion times.

“We are the big mobile Internet company now based on our user base,” Fu said.

Those results enabled the company to go public last year.

“You can reach billions of users just through the Google Play store,” Fu said. “It’s easier to build a global company now. Clean Master is a simple app. But users all over the world need this simple function.”

Fu noted that no Chinese mobile company has really been successful overseas. He said that about 95 percent of their revenue last year was from China. In the second quarter, though, 50 percent of revenue came from outside of China. And 70 percent of the company’s revenues now come from mobile. That mobile revenue was up 634 percent year over year.

Why was Cheetah Mobile successful where so many else failed? Fu thinks it was because “we dared to think.” He thought more like a global company, and followed the American Dream of coming up with a better idea for global markets.

On top of that, he said that Cheetah Mobile was able to benefit from fast execution. It made some mistakes but grabbed opportunities while they were hot.

He also credits the strategy of offering Cheetah Mobile apps free to Chinese consumers. Rather than charge money for its apps, Cheetah Mobile concentrated on making advertising revenue from partners.

Cheetah has also had access to a lot of engineering talent. It has, for instance, been able to hire a lot of people in the past year.

Fu said that Cheetah Mobile has taken its money and is looking to invest in 30 startups in China. Fu has also invested some of his own personal money in startups in Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, Cheetah Mobile is trying  to become its own platform. In June, it launched a new global advertising platform designed to help marketers drive traffic and app installs. The announcement is a further development of its recent $58 million acquisition of mobile advertising company MobPartner.

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