Didi Kuaidi, the largest car-hailing app in China, announced today that it has added Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang to its board as its senior advisor. In a statement, the company said Yang’s experience will help it build its mobile platform, which is already used by 250 million people in China.
The appointment also reinforces the network of close ties Didi Kuaidi has formed with some of the world’s largest tech companies, including SoftBank, Tencent, and Alibaba. Yang, of course, is closely tied with Alibaba: he led Yahoo’s purchase of a 40 percent stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant ten years ago.
Together, these companies are forming a worldwide alliance to take on Uber, which is reportedly seeking yet more funding that will raise its valuation to $62.5 billion, with much of the capital earmarked for expansion in Asia. Didi Kuaidi, Lyft in the U.S., leading Indian car-hailing app Ola, and GrabTaxi, which holds most of the market in Southeast Asia, are now closely connected through investments and mutual venture capital backers.
Didi Kuaidi was created when China’s two largest car-hailing apps—Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache—merged earlier this year. Kuaidi Dache’s investors included Alibaba, SoftBank, and Tiger Global, while Didi Dache counts Tencent, DST Global, and Temasek Holdings among its biggest backers. SoftBank also invested in Ola and GrabTaxi, while Alibaba contributed funding to Lyft. After its merger, Didi Dache became an investor in all three companies, too.
Though all four companies have said that they plan to remain independent, their close ties represent one of the biggest hurdles Uber faces as it seeks global dominance.
Didi Kuaidi’s close relationship with some of China’s biggest Internet firms also made itself felt this weekend when WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, said it would block Uber. Tencent claimed this was because of “malicious marketing” by Uber, but the move also makes it much harder for Uber to reach customers in China because WeChat is the country’s largest messaging app and an important platform for businesses.
Uber, however, isn’t completely alone in China. It’s main ally and investor there is Baidu, the maker of the country’s largest search engine, which means it is integrated into mobile apps like Baidu Maps.
Didi Kuaidi hasn’t given specific details about how it will work with Yang, but in a statement, founder and chief executive officer Cheng Wei (a former Alibaba executive) said Yang’s “experience and insights on the global and Asian technology sector will greatly benefit Didi’s long-term strategy to build a leading mobile internet platform of global scale.”