China’s hottest startup is flatlining

China’s hottest startup is flatlining

xiaomi smartphones lei jun ceo chinaEtienne Oliveau/Getty ImagesLei Jun, the chairman and CEO of Xiaomi Technology and the chairman of Kingsoft Corp.

Xiaomi was once the most valuable tech startup in the world. Now it’s flatlining.

The Chinese smartphone and electronics company’s revenues barely grew in 2015, according to a new report from Fortune, as it struggles to grow its business globally amid a slowdown in the Chinese smartphone market.

Xiaomi launched in 2010, and it has enjoyed meteoric growth: By the end of 2014, it was the officially the world’s most valuable technology startup, with a private valuation of more than $46 billion. (It has now No. 2 behind Uber.)

Specialising in cheap, high-quality smartphones, it grew off the back of an unusually passionate fan base, which it was careful to cultivate; liberal borrowing from Apple’s playbook, including charismatic CEO keynote speeches; and a booming market in China for smartphones.

The company set an ambitious target for 2015: Sell 100 million smartphones. But by July, as sales began to slow, it started to become clear that it just wouldn’t happen.

It ultimately sold “over 70 million,” according to a company representative.

Scott Cendrowski of Fortune, citing an investor and a company representative, now has the scoop on revenue figures, and they don’t make pleasant reading for the company.

  • Overall revenue for 2015 was 78 billion yuan ($11.9 billion), up 5% on 74.3 billion yuan ($11.3 billion) in 2014, well short of a 100 billion yuan target for the year.
  • Internet services revenue reached $560 million versus $1 billion predicted.

A Xiaomi representative told Business Insider: “We are not able to comment on the revenue figure mentioned. What we have shared is that we sold over 70 million smartphones in 2015 despite the shrinking of the overall China smartphone market.”

After years of double-digit growth, China’s smartphone market has now significantly cooled. In 2015, 434 million devices shipped, according to IDC — just 2.5% year-on-year growth. Xiaomi has launched in other territories, including in Latin America, but it has been unable to replicate the runaway success of its home market.

Xiaomi’s days as a rising star of the tech world may now be behind it: With its global ambitions muted by lack of growth, it’s now just another phone company.

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