ByteDance Puts Money Behind Influencer Li Ziqi, Marching into New Consumption Field

Li Ziqi, Chinese online influencer who has 15.7 million subscribers on YouTube and 3.2 million followers on TikTok (Source: Garland Magazine)

Chinese tech giant ByteDance took up a 1.48% stake in Weinian Brand Management Co, Ltd, the agency responsible for one of the most popular influencers in China right now, Li Ziqi.

Founded in February 2013, Weinian is a new consumer brand company with the ability to incubate and integrate key opinion leaders (KOL). Other notable investors include Meridian Capital, Sea of Stars Capital, Sina Weibo, Huaxing New Economic Fund and Zhongyuan Capital.

In fact, it is not the first time for ByteDance to back a MCN company. At the beginning of 2020, ByteDance invested 180 million yuan exclusively in the B round of financing of Mountaintop Entertainment, holding 8.85% of the shares, after which the two sides launched a comprehensive strategic cooperation. However, ByteDance is not intending to enter the entertainment industry. Instead, Zhang Yiming is interested in papitube founded by Yang Ming, the co-founder of Mountaintop Entertainment and Internet celebrity papi, and its MCNs.

In 2021, Bytedance made frequent investments in the consumption field, and successively invested in consumer brands such as Sharkfit, NYSCPS, QOKA and Manner Coffee.

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Li Ziqi, who was born in a small village in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, is currently the most famous influencer in Weinian’s agency. Li grew in a family that was neither rich neither too poor, rowing up in a family that is not rich, she and learned a variety of skills as she grew up, including how to cook, do carpentry, weave bamboo and various tasks on her family’s farm. After working for sometime in the city, she went back to her hometown to take care of her grandmother and made videos of preparing food at home.. In 2017, Weinian set up a cultural communication company for Li Ziqi in Sichuan, with Weinian and Li Ziqi holding 51% and 49% of the shares, respectively.

Li Ziqi has over 100 million fans globally now. In February of this year,she set a new Guinness World Record for “the Most Subscribed YouTube Chinese Channel” with 14.1 million followers. CCTV News also commented that Li Ziqi’s videos don’t boast about China, but simply tell Chinese stories well.

Li Ziqi has launched instant food brands such as Liuzhou river snails rice noodles and hot and sour noodles, instant drinks and meal replacement foods including lotus root starch and sesame paste, and traditional pastries such as rice cakes and egg yolk cakes in her flagship e-store on Taobao. The annual sales of Liziqi brand in 2020 reached about 1.6 billion yuan, among which the monthly sales volume of Liuzhou river snails rice noodles exceeded 1 million.

Li Jiaqi, who gained his fame through livestreaming, was also selected to appear in Forbes China’s 30 Under 30. American ONE, the company behind Li Jiaqi, has received investment from institutions such as JINGDATA and DT Capital Partners. “Qianxun”, another MCN institution behind the live streamer Viya, was invested by Legend Capital and Yunfeng Capital.