“I USED TO think that I was the only person in the world attracted to people of the same gender.” So begins Ma Baoli’s letter to investors. The 43-year-old Mr Ma spent nearly two decades as a closeted policeman in small-town China before founding a gay-dating app called Blued. Today it is China’s most popular social network for homosexual men. On July 8th its parent company, BlueCity, listed on New York’s Nasdaq exchange, at a market value of over $600m.
Blued launched in China in 2012, 11 years after homosexuality was removed from the country’s list of mental disorders and as social attitudes towards same-sex relations were liberalising (though too many government officials and businesses still harbour hidebound views). An international edition of the app was released in 2015. Just over half of Blued’s 6m active monthly users are in China. The rest are mainly in other parts of Asia. It is the market leader in India, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Growth has been brisk. BlueCity’s revenues reached 207m yuan ($30m) in the first quarter, up by 43% year on year. These come mainly from sales of in-app virtual gifts, advertising and membership fees (which let users skip ads, for example). Blued is still loss-making. But that is not holding back ambitions. Mr Ma vows in his shareholder letter to “continue expanding our...
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