A new Chinese Web community site, renren.com, has emerged with financial and technological assistance from Compaq, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, eShare Technologies, and AT&T EasyLink as well as capital from private investors.
renren.com, modelled somewhat on the GeoCities and Tripod sites, is billing itself as the only destination site that enables Chinese globally to meet and communicate online in the choice of three languages, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, and English.
The virtual community provides six interest-related communities: romance, technology, finance, sports, entertainment and campus.
Each of these communities hosts, in any of the three languages, user home pages, chat rooms and forums.
Content will include Chinese and English information from Reuters, CNET and MTV.
The Hong Kong startup was co-founded by former employees of McKinsey & Company, Michael Robinson and Anthony Cheng, both of whom served as Internet strategists.
“I think it would be fair to say that, despite the evolution of the Chinese language sites over the course of the last few years, the current Chinese Internet population is still short-changed in terms of a wealth of Chinese-centric content,” said Robinson, renren.com’s CEO.
Several surveys of the Chinese Internet population show that one of the top complaints of users is the lack of Chinese language content.
Robinson stated that renren.com was answering the pent-up demand for Chinese language content and was “a young Hong Kong-based Internet technology start-up being actively supported and encouraged by some of the world’s biggest technology corporations.”
“The result of this concentrated technology and Internet experience support is a next generation Chinese language Web presence, enabled by the world’s very best Internet technologies and offering.. robust Chinese-language versions of existing Web feature that audiences in the US may take for granted,” added Robinson.
Cheng, renren’s president, said that the site creates a new realm for Chinese Internet users because “nobody has a home page builder in English, simplified, and traditional Chinese. Nobody has classifieds in English, simplified, and traditional.
Jack Sandner, a renren.com director and former chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, commented, “the renren.com concept, combined with its strong management team and clear strategic direction is, in my opinion, a winning formula.”
Sandner apparently showed the site to Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji during his recent visit to the United States, who allegedly was impressed.
renren.com, whose valuation was in the multimillion dollar range, currently has 8 employees, plans to have 25 by the end of the year and projects doubling the number of staff on an annual basis.
Observers indicated that the design of renren.com appears to be original in color scheme, quick loading, and takes in account local interests.
According to a source, the design of the destination site was outsourced to Hong Kong-based Web designers, Lemon.