It’s official: Chinese Internet giant Baidu has confirmed that it is Uber’s latest investor, as TechCrunch reported last week. Baidu’s mobile search and maps apps will also integrate Uber “request a ride” buttons.
The companies did not disclose the amount of the investment. Bloomberg previously reported that Baidu had taken the entire $600 million surplus that Uber built into its most recent funding round, however a source at Baidu told TechCrunch that this is untrue.
If there is further capacity in the round, which was earmarked towards developing Uber’s market position across Asia Pacific, then it stands to reason that other strategic investors from Asia may make similar deals with the U.S. company.
We understand that the strategic partnership between Uber and Baidu is more significant than the investment, because Baidu Maps will be able to integrate Uber. This is similar to Google Maps’ Uber integration after Google Ventures invested in the car-calling app. Furthermore, Baidu’s mobile search app will be configured so that Uber is displayed prominently when users make travel- or venue-related queries.
The deal will “enable users of Baidu Map and Mobile Baidu, Baidu’s flagship mobile search app, to connect easily with Uber driver-partners” the companies said.
This is a major boon for Uber because Baidu operates China’s largest search engine and will help it compete against its rivals Didi Dache and rival Kuaidi Dache, which are backed by Baidu-competitors Tencent and Alibaba, respectively.
The Baidu investment comes just a few weeks after Uber announced that it had raised $1.2 billion in funding at a $40 billion valuation, with a portion of the capital earmarked for expansion in the Asia-Pacific region.
The deal was struck at a “signing ceremony” at Baidu HQ in Beijing, which Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick both attended.
The deal will also allow Uber to take advantage of Baidu’s app distribution channels, which include 91 Wireless, which it purchased for $1.9 billion last year. This is important because Google Play isn’t available in China and 91 Wireless runs some of the largest alternative app stores in the country. Baidu claims it is currently China’s largest mobile app distribution platform, and distributed an average of 160 million apps per day.
The company’s mobile search products currently have over 500 million monthly active users, while Baidu Map has over 240 million monthly active users, which has allowed it to create heat maps of travel patterns by users, similar to Uber’s God View.
Baidu is also currently tackling an expansion into Latin America via Brazil, which overlaps with Uber’s global aspirations.
In a prepared statement, Kalanick said “This collaboration marks a milestone for Uber. We’re currently in 250 cities around the world, and the Asia-Pacific region has been a key area of growth for us. Our partnership with Baidu—a premier global brand—reflects our commitment to the region and the growing community of Uber riders and driver-partners here.”
Uber is currently available in nine Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, and Hangzhou.
For more information about how Baidu and Uber can work together, see our previous article.