Tencent (HKG:0700), makers of the popular WeChat messaging app, is to open an office in America this year as the Chinese company focuses on taking WeChat global. This was confirmed by Tencent corporate development group vice president Zhang Xiaolong in an email to employees this morning and which was seen by Caijing.
The paper says that the new US branch will be a customer relations department for WeChat, which has over 300 million users.
WeChat – known as Weixin to Chinese users – first went global in April 2012 when the English branding was created. As you can see in the graph below, that seems to have accelerated WeChat’s growth even further, though Tencent has never released figures for the numbers of overseas users. However, Justin Sun, director of international WeChat operations at Tencent, told us last year that WeChat is seeing a growing ratio of overseas users and is proving to be a hit in Southeast Asia, America, and across the Middle East.
Tencent already has offices for its gaming operations in San Francisco; it’s not clear if the new office will be nearby – or precisely when it’ll open. We’ve reached out to Tencent at Shenzhen HQ
and will update if we hear back [UPDATED:] who tell us: “We recently put together a small project team for WeChat to study the US market and explore future potential opportunities.”
WeChat is up against established messaging apps like Whatsapp, as well as a host of innovative Asian-made rivals. Aside from messaging, WeChat has a feature called Moments that allows users to share albums of photos and other things, making it a challenger to Path and Facebook as well. The biggest rival app out of Asia is NHN Japan’s Line app, which is also expanding aggressively into overseas markets.
Here’s WeChat’s growth in users thus far: