October 4, 2013, 12:10 PM

China e-commerce giant Alibaba invests in a mobile app search engine

Alibaba leads a $50 million funding round for Silicon Valley-based Quixey.

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s leading e-commerce company, has led a $50 million funding round in mobile app search engine Quixey. It’s the latest in a series of Alibaba investments in emerging technology companies.

Quixey, a 4-year-old company based in Mountain View in California’s Silicon Valley, enables consumers to search for mobile apps by function as well as name. Being able to find an app without knowing its name is Quixey’s big advantage, says Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group.

Quixey lists as partners software company Microsoft Corp., mobile phone technology provider Nokia, Singapore wireless phone carrier StarHub and U.S.-based search engines Ask.com and DuckDuckGo.com. Quixey says it provides results for 100 million search queries per month.

Alibaba, which is planning an IPO that likely will value the company in the range of $70 billion to $100 billion, has invested in such companies as Sina Weibo, a hugely popular Twitter-like social network in China, and China-based online map provider AutoNavi. It also this year acquired Kanbox, a Chinese company that provides online data storage, and announced a deal with Wasu Media Holding Co. of China to develop Internet-based television services. Alibaba, which operates China’s dominant online retail marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall, is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Asia 500.

"Innovation is at the heart of Alibaba's culture, so backing entrepreneurs who are developing forward-thinking technology is what we love to do," Tsai said, in commenting on the Quixey investment. "Quixey has a great vision for the future and a fantastic team to see it through."

Also investing in Quixey in the funding round announced this week are GGV Capital along with existing investors Innovation Endeavors, TransLink Capital and US Venture Partners in the U.S., as well as Atlantic Bridge in London and Dublin and WI Harper in Beijing.  Quixey has now raised $74.2 million.

"Next year, 95% of the world's population will have mobile access, and by 2016 peo­ple will use 1.5 bil­lion smart mobile devices. Quixey is at the epicenter of this brave new world, and this investment will ensure that we continue to expand globally," Tomer Kagan, Quixey’s co-founder and CEO, said of the latest funding round. "Apps have moved from novelty to a major factor in purchasing decisions for consumers and we've only just started to scratch the surface of what they can do."

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