Apple is putting some major cash behind Uber’s fiercest rival in China.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company is investing $1 billion in Didi, one of the fastest-growing technology companies in China that helps connect taxis and private cars with those needing a ride, among an array of other transportation-related innovations it is developing for a massive customer base.
Didi said this is the single largest investment it has received to date. Previously, Didi was set to raise a $2 billion round that would value the company at a reported $25 billion. Other investors include other Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent.
Didi says it facilitates more than 11 million rides per day and has around 300 million users across 400 Chinese cities.
Bloomberg and The New York Times both noted how quickly the partnership between Apple and Didi came to be, with the iPhone-maker deciding to invest within a matter of weeks after Apple CEO Tim Cook first met with Didi executives. It’s one of Apple’s largest investments and is even more noteworthy given that the company is investing in China, where it has a huge customer base but also faces scrutiny from regulators. The investment is also a sign of Apple looking for new business verticals as iPhone and iPad sales slow.
“You’re not going to find a country with 80-plus cities over five million people anywhere else,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told The Wall Street Journal last year. “The vastness of the opportunities really isn’t matched in any other market.”
Kalanick seems to be taking Apple’s investment in stride:
GeekWire visited Didi’s headquarters in Bejing as part of our China trip this past November and met with Zhang Bo, founding CTO of Didi. Zhang told GeekWire that his company will stay ahead of Uber for a rather simple reason: It knows the nuances of the Chinese market better than its foreign competitor.
“Our technology is tailored to this particular market,” he said via an interpreter. “That gives us an advantage over our competitors.”
The fierce competition between Didi and Uber has played out in public, with Tencent blocking Uber from its extremely popular messaging platform, WeChat, which customers can use to hail a Didi driver and pay for a ride.