WeChat had just turned seven. At a luxury hotel in southern China last month, the anniversary party raged for workers at one of the world’s most popular apps. There were lucky draws. Some employees performed a Chinese rap. Allen Zhang, WeChat’s creator, gave everyone a personally engraved iPhone X.
But beneath the glitter and fun, there was an undercurrent of anxiety. WeChat’s growth to 980 million users has driven the market value of its owner Tencent above $500 billion, making it one of the most valuable tech companies in the world. But while WeChat helps other Tencent services make money, WeChat is still figuring out how to make significant revenue of its own. Tencent’s social media ad sales, primarily WeChat ads, account for only about 11% of Tencent’s total revenue. Online games are Tencent’s biggest business, generating more than 40% of its revenue.