The Negotiation

Welcome to Part 2 of our chat with Matthew Brennan, Co-Founder and Managing Director of China Channel based in Beijing, and author of a new amazing book called Attention Factory, The Story of TikTok & China’s ByteDance. In this second half we dive right discussing something called the “Middle Platform”, basically a central nervous system that allows ByteDance’s apps to all plug into and share resources, how TikTok started out as a “cringe” app, the difference between it and Snapchat, why it made sense for Oracle to acquire TikTok, and some dialogue around TikTok becoming a political posturing pawn and how that will net out as the Biden administration takes office. Enjoy.

Show Notes

Topics Discussed and Key Points:
●      What is the “middle platform” and how does it benefit ByteDance?
●      Other innovations by ByteDance that other companies are trying to imitate
●      TikTok versus Snapchat, and why the former is thriving while the latter is dying
●      Up-and-coming tech companies to keep an eye on
●      Why Oracle attempted to partner with TikTok
●      The future of TikTok in the U.S. with a Biden administration in place
●      Why America is seen as a high-risk market in China
●      The ramifications of Jack Ma’s speech on the Ant IPO
Episode Summary:
Today on The Negotiation, we continue our conversation with Matthew Brennan, a highly sought-after speaker on Chinese internet and tech innovation, with a particular focus on WeChat and ByteDance. He is also the author of Attention Factory: The Story of TikTok and China's ByteDance (2020).
Matthew is the Co-Founder of China Channel, which “provides digital marketing services for brands wishing to perform better on WeChat and China's digital ecosystem.” China Channel also organizes “China’s largest WeChat marketing conference series for international companies, China Channel delivers regular presentations, workshops, trainings and events globally about WeChat.”
The “middle platform”, first conceptualized by Jack Ma and Alibaba, is a third-party group that does the “heavy lifting” in terms of technology and resource management. ByteDance’s apps can all plug into this central service called the middle platform, allowing these resources to be shared and ensuring no overlap between different teams.
ByteDance has risen to prominence in the China tech space—and that of the world, by extension—through a myriad of innovations, from launching their unique internal tools as a product, selling their recommendation algorithm ala “recommendation as a service”, and their various avenues for growth hacking.
Listen in as Matthew goes on to discuss the importance of how psychology can inform the potential success (or failure) of a social platform, other tech companies in China set to explode soon as ByteDance did, make sense of Oracle’s decision to partner with TikTok, and what a Biden administration (as well as current, strained U.S.-China relations) would mean for the future of TikTok and ByteDance as a whole.
Key Quotes:
“It wasn’t always obvious that TikTok would be so successful because they almost ruined it in the early days.”
“When it comes to apps such as TikTok or Snapchat, it’s really important to understand the psychology behind these applications. It says so much about them and where the opportunity is in terms of business.”
“When you speak to entrepreneurs and VCs on the ground in China, nobody really wants to invest in America anymore. It’s too risky. They don’t want to launch apps there. They just see it as a high-risk market.”

What is The Negotiation?

Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.

The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.