As China's smartphone user numbers continue to balloon--it currently has more than 500 million--so too does the number of U.S. tech firms looking to get a piece of that market.
Flipboard is the most recent, joining LinkedIn on the list of American tech companies looking to rejuvenate their offerings here.
The four-year-old Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which creates a bespoke mobile magazine of content from social and traditional media, has hired three new employees in China and plans to expand the team to 10, from just one, by the end of the summer, according to Flipboard Chief Technology Officer Eric Feng.
Though Flipboard initially introduced an application in China in 2011, Mr. Feng said the company has since been more focused on keeping up with product developments in the U.S.
'We actually did a pretty good job early on launching the China app....but what happened in 2012 and 2013 is we just stopped investing in it...it was not through any purposeful decision, [Flipboard] was a small company, with limited resources focused elsewhere,' he said.
Despite the relative neglect, Mr. Feng said the company has seen its user base in China grow rapidly, with growth rates here outpacing those of the U.S. Of the company's more than 100 million users, half are outside the U.S. and China is the company's third-largest market internationally.
One of the first items on the agenda for Flipboard in China, according to Mr. Feng, is to bring into the fold more of the country's popular social media platforms. Its China app is currently integrated with Sina and Tencent Weibo (both popular microblogs) as well as with Renren (a Facebook clone that has fallen in popularity in recent years). Mr. Feng said Flipboard hopes to add to that list services such as Tencent's mobile messaging and social networking app WeChat and Douban, social networking service focused on film, books and music.
Mr. Feng said the power of China's users is likely to drive other startups to follow in Flipboard's tracks soon.
'We're at an inflection point where it is a very dominant market and in the next few years, I wouldn't be surprised to see companies come out with China strategies at launch,' he said. 'As we think of mobile first, I'm sure there will be a new generation of Silicon Valley startups that think of China first.'
That would offer a new brand of competition for Chinese startups, which are slowly brewing their own form of innovation but which also benefit from having little outside competition and are often able to simply make Chinese-language copies of apps that become popular elsewhere. After the app Whisper, which lets users post anonymous messages paired with a photo, grew popular in the U.S., a Chinese clone emerged within months.