Mobile utility apps have become an integral part of our mobile-centric lives. Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese app developer, is a major player in this space, despite being relatively unknown. The company is focused on making smartphone experiences faster and safer, and has a range of apps to achieve this goal. Clean Master improves device performance, CM Security protects phones with anti-virus software and privacy features, and Battery Doctor optimizes battery life.
Cheetah Mobile was established in 2010 by Fu Sheng and has experienced significant growth since then. It started as a six-person startup and is now a $2.7 billion market cap company listed on the NYSE. Kingsoft, a major shareholder in the company, adds value through its former CEO, Lei Jun, who runs Xiaomi, China's leading Android smartphone maker.
Aside from gaming, Cheetah Mobile is the second top publisher worldwide for Google Play downloads, surpassing Google itself. In the U.S., CM Security ranks first and Clean Master ranks third in the Google Play Tools category, according to App Annie.
The company's dominance is fueled by its massive user base of 500 million monthly active users worldwide. While initially popular in China for its free PC anti-virus software, Cheetah Mobile has seen a shift towards mobile, with 67% of revenue coming from mobile and 50% from outside China.
Cheetah Mobile is also focusing on the Indian market, recognizing the importance of cultural differences. The company developed the AppLock functionality specifically for Indian families who share a smartphone and want to lock their apps from other users.
A key strategy behind Cheetah Mobile's growth is its free-to-use model. By offering apps for free, the company has attracted a large user base. It has also developed an app marketplace to recommend new apps and relies on mobile native ads for revenue. In Q1 of this year, revenues jumped 584% year-over-year to $59.3 million. Cheetah Mobile plans to utilize its big data resources to recommend things like restaurants to users in the future.
CEO Fu Sheng has gained valuable insights about Chinese tech innovation by constantly traveling between China and the U.S. He has witnessed the rapid evolution of the Chinese startup market, with the younger generation being more entrepreneurially ambitious than their predecessors. This intense competition has led Chinese startups to work harder and faster than their Silicon Valley counterparts, resulting in constant innovation.
The rise of online-to-offline (O2O) business models in China is also significant. Fu Sheng mentioned a mobile door-to-door laundry delivery service called Edaixi, which offers cheap pick-up, cleaning, and delivery of clothes. He sees potential for revenue in offshoot services, such as recommending new styles of clothing.
Cheetah Mobile is now developing utility apps specifically for smartwatches and wearables. Fu Sheng believes that utility apps will play a crucial role in solving new problems that arise with these platforms. Security, in particular, will become even more important as smartwatches become closely tied to our individual identities. Fu Sheng also expects utility apps to facilitate interactions between phones and wearables, with the phone acting as the main hub for our mobile Internet lifestyle for the foreseeable future.
Cheetah Mobile's mission is to make the mobile experience speedier, simpler, and safer across all devices. The company is excited to apply its knowledge from smartphones to improve user interactions with these new types of devices.