Harvard-trained designer creates China Business Software Unicorn


(Bloomberg) – A Harvard-educated designer turned his content marketing platform into a unicorn, helped by investors betting on enterprise software as the next big opportunity in China’s tech industry.

Tezign, which connects designers to businesses, has completed the first installment of its Series D cycle led by Temasek Holdings Pte, bringing its valuation to more than $ 1 billion, the startup said. He received around $ 40 million from the Singapore State Investment Company and other backers.

Founded in 2015 by Harvard Ph.D. Fan Ling, Tezign is a blend of online recruiter Upwork Inc. and cloud marketing from Adobe Inc.: it connects creative talent with brands and industry specialists. marketing, and customers also use its platform. to manage their digital content. The Shanghai-based company is part of a generation of startups aspiring to be the next Oracle Corp. and Salesforce.com Inc. for China, a nascent $ 12 billion arena for enterprise software.

“There is a clear trend regarding the digital transformation of businesses in China,” Fan said in an interview. “Brands that relied on big tech companies for their sales now want to build their own consumer database and have power over content production and distribution. Each brand can work as a mini version of Alibaba.

Since Beijing began its campaign to harness big tech almost a year ago, investors have turned away from the once hot mainstream internet industry. Instead, they’re investing money in enterprise software and cutting-edge technologies like chips and autonomous driving – key initiatives in Xi Jinping’s drive to achieve technological self-sufficiency in China.

Tezign’s latest fundraiser comes after completing a $ 100 million Series C funding round in March led by Sequoia China and Temasek. Last month, digital signature startup Esign also achieved unicorn status after raising 1.2 billion yuan ($ 188 million) from venture capital firms such as Sequoia China and IDG Capital.

Tezign will use the product to strengthen its sales network and technological capabilities, Fan said. The 40-year-old founder expects revenues to double to at least $ 40 million this year, adding that he is in no rush to turn a profit.

The start-up intends to increase the number of its large enterprise clients – which currently include Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Unilever Plc – to 1,000 in three years, up from 200 previously, he said. The company expects to generate 30% of its revenue outside of China by the same time frame, as it ventures into markets like Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

Fan taught at the University of California at Berkeley and at a college in Beijing for seven years before starting Tezign with several students.

“When we first met Dr Fan in 2015, Tezign was still in pre-income and trying to find his fit with the product market,” said Peter Cheng, whose Eminence Ventures has invested in his series cycle. A. “But with his experience, it is evident that the match between the founder and the market was there. “

© 2021 Bloomberg LP

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