Google Takes Minority Position In Beijing Startup Mobvoi

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Google has taken an undisclosed minority ownership position in Mobvoi signifying its first direct investment on the mainland since leaving China in 2010.

Google’s strategic partnership with Mobvoi

In early September, Android Wear announced a partnership with Mobvoi (Chumenwenwen) to work together in order to bring Android Wear to the massive market that is China. The announcement also included an understanding that Moto 360 would become the first Android Wear device with Chinese language voice search and controls powered by the three-year-old startup Mobvoi.

The move was viewed as a first step to diffuse tensions between the Chinese government ahead of a potential return to China for the search giant. The partnership brings voice search from Mobvoi to Chinese users and includes data provided by Mobvoi’s partners like Sogou Map, Dianping, Ctrip, etc.

Investment announcement by Mobvoi, Google

Voice recognition and voice search applications are a massive part of tech companies growth strategies both in the United States and China, however, until the September announcement that largely saw these technologies going from West to East.

While no details of the investment have been given, it’s believed that Google will hold a significant minority position in the startup co-founded by a former Google employee in 2012.

“Mobvoi is very excited to welcome Google as an investor as both companies share a long-term view on technologies,” Li Zhifei, the aforementioned co-founder said of the deal.

“Mobvoi has developed some very unique speech and natural language processing technologies,” Don Harrison, vice president of corporate development for Google Inc., said in a statement. “We were impressed by their innovative approach and the early traction that they’ve seen.”

Google is clearly not done with China yet

While it’s true that the bulk of Google’s services are blocked in China including Maps, Search and Gmail, Google’s Android which powers the vast majority of smartphones in the world is a major player in China. China is the largest smartphone market in the world and Google will not give up in the country despite the constant feuding with the Chinese goverment that saw the Mountain View, CA-based company pack its bags in 2010.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at theflask@gmail.com

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