Clubhouse's Chinese tech service provider Agora sees revenue surge in 2020 benefiting from business model: industry analyst
Published: Feb 24, 2021 12:17 AM

Agora Photo:VCG

Agora, Clubhouse's Chinese tech service provider, released its fourth quarter and annual financial results on Monday, showing a massive surge in revenue. The rapid growth rate can be attributed to its successful business model and the fame brought by the hit audio social media application Clubhouse, analyst said.

Agora reported an annual revenue of $133.6 million for 2020, an increase of 107.3 percent from the previous year, according to its financial report. Founded in 2013 and based in both Shanghai and Santa Clara, California, Agora was far away from a household name but suddenly came under the spotlight and was dubbed as "unnamed heroes behind Clubhouse".

The technologies Agora provided to support Clubhouse were not unique, Zhang Yi, internet analyst and CEO of Guangzhou-based iiMedia Research noted. Many Chinese tech companies, including giants like Tencent and Baidu, are believed to have the ability to develop similar technologies, Zhang noted. What allowed Agora to expand its business in the highly competitive internet market is its business model, which is based on technology outsourcing.   

Agora is engaged in offering Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for real-time audio and video engagement in varied contexts, including live-streaming, online education, medical care and enterprise cooperation. It serves Chinese clients, like tech companies Xiaomi and Momo, and education provider New Oriental, as well as customers abroad such as group video chatting app Bunch and community platform Kumu. 

Over 27,000 user applications have been submitted at Agora platform as of December 31, 2020, the Global Times learned in an exclusive email interview with the company. Agora noted it has confidence in customer loyalty citing the 101.2% increase of active users to 2,095 in the fourth quarter. 

Listed on Nasdaq and looking to expand on the global market, Agora faces suspicion over alleged violation of user data security requirements, like other Chinese tech companies. Shortly after Agora gained fame due to its success with Clubhouse, Stanford Internet Observatory, claimed that Agora might have access to users' raw audio and potentially provide access to the Chinese government.  

Agora declared that it didn't collect, share or store any end user data that could be used to identify the user. It only collects data from its customers for improving their algorithm and making charges. Agora stressed that it runs in accordance with EU General Date Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Zhang indicated that it is unreasonable to suspect Agora violating user's privacy because it just provides tech services to Clubhouse, which is responsible for operation.

Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based internet industry analyst commented that the concerns around privacy and user data security are common for tech companies playing in the international market and is not the predicament only for Chinese internet firms. To achieve international business success, a tech startup like Agora must prove its unique value to local partners and abide with the local laws, Liu said. 

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