Meitu is said to be shooting for at least that much in its latest funding round, a target that would make it one of China’s 10 largest private startups and eclipse household names such as Yelp. It is banking on China’s growing preoccupation with ideals of comeliness, a passion that has inspired countless internet memes and a surge in cosmetic surgery.
Meitu’s apps help 270million monthly active users slim faces, lengthen legs and otherwise spice up their online appearance – essential among image-obsessed social media mavens.
“I never post a photo online without using Meitu first,” said 26-year-old accountant Pan Nana, of Qingdao, who has used the app for more than six years.
“It’s the first app I’ve ever used to beautify selfies and I haven’t come across another that has as many functions.”
Meitu, founded in 2008, arrived at an opportune time. Social media use exploded in the wake of years of hyper-economic expansion, while foreign entertainment helped popularise new ideas of attractiveness.
That ardour surfaced this year through well-publicised social media frenzies, including an online dare encouraging women to cover their waists with a sheet of A4 paper, thus proving they are skinny. Meitu’s suite of apps can help. They allow people to adjust their photos in almost every conceivable way and with a single touch, from lightening complexion (fairness is considered attractive in China) to adjusting height and slapping on virtual makeup.
The startup, backed by IDG and Qiming Venture Partners, is raising about $200-million in its latest round of funding, people familiar with the matter said, requesting not to be named because the matter is private. It is also said to be planning an overseas initial public offering as soon as this year, with Hong Kong a possible listing destination. Meitu declined to comment.
Meitu joins a bunch of startups playing off the country’s newfound mania. SoYoung Technology in Beijing, the developer of an app that helps users find plastic surgeons based on location, is raising $50-million in its latest financing round, the company said last month.
Meitu’s apps have already been installed on more than 900million mobile devices. It has consistently topped photo and video app rankings on Apple App Store in China this year, according to data provided by market researcher App Annie. Meitu is using its latest round to expand into facial recognition and smartphones, as it partners with Foxconn Technology Group to expand in Southeast Asia and India.