Tencent’s latest investment is an app that teaches grannies in China to dance

Besides churning out video games for China’s young generations, Tencent has also been attuned to the needs of silver-haired users: its latest bet is an app that teaches middle-age and elderly users, most of whom are female, how to dance.

Called Tangdou, or “sugar beans” in Chinese, the app announced on Monday that it has raised a Series C funding round led by Tencent with participation from existing investors GGV Capital and Xiaomi founder Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital, as well as IDG Capital.

The financial infusion makes for an interesting move for Tencent, whose WeChat messenger counts users over the age of 55 as its fastest-growing group. In fact, Tangdou has piggybacked off WeChat to acquire users by creating lite-apps that are designed for ease of use and run within the ubiquitous chatting tool, which is many senior users’ first taste of the internet.

While Tangdou did not disclose the size of the round, the new proceeds brought its total funds raised to date to nearly $100 million. It last inked $15 million (in Chinese) from a Series B funding round in 2016 and another $5 million from a B-plus round in 2017.

“As [China’s] mobile internet enters the ‘second half’ of its development phase, the markets for maternal and child care, middle-age and elderly users have become the new red-hot verticals,” said GGV’s managing partner Jenny Lee in a statement.

Of China’s 829 million online users, 12.5 percent were above 50 years old in 2018, up from 10.4 percent in the year-earlier period, according to data collected by the government-run China Internet Network Information Center.


Screenshots of the Tangdou app / Source: Tangdou

Clad in color-coordinated costumes, the so-called demographic of “square-dancing aunties” shimmy in parks, squares and, when public space is in short supply, on sidewalks. Dancing in public is now a daily routine for hundreds of millions of female retirees in China, a phenomenon that’s fueling an emerging market, and Tangdou is one of the players who got in early.

Founded four years ago, Tangdou began by offering video tutorials that teach grannies and aunties how to dance, but has over time morphed into a one-stop app fulfilling news reading, networking and other needs for its senior users. The app’s content now touches on a variety of topics, from fashion, food and health to skin care, and it’s dabbled offline to host meetups for those craving a sense of camaraderie.

All told, the company claims it serves 200 million users across its range of products. More than 4,000 offline events take place each month, attracting over 500,000 attendees, and 400,000 users consume videos and articles on the Tangdou app each month and spend an average of 33 minutes on it every day. That level of user loyalty makes Tangdou an ideal destination for advertising, which is indeed one of the company’s major revenue sources. Tangdou is also mulling an e-commerce business and other forms of offline services, including dance classes and tours for its dance enthusiasts.