Why Western Tech Startups Shouldn’t Copy Chinese Tech

Facebook looked at WeChat in China and how that company was succeeding so brilliantly in mobile with bots, AI and eCommerce. So they set out to copy them and bring all those juicy tidbits into Messenger. It never really took off. Others in the West have tried. They haven’t really taken off either.

There’s one primary reason: culture.

Just over a year ago, a startup brought me in to help them evaluate and better understand why their social networking product wasn’t gaining user or investment traction. It didn’t take long as the answer was right there; they were trying to copy Chinese concepts.

WeChat and others work extremely well in Asian cultures because they tend towards being highly familial and think multi-generational and are inherently more sharing. Western cultures tend towards smaller familial units and smaller close friendship units. Westerners also tend not think as multi-generational. While one might think that because Western cultures share a lot of content on social media, including personal information most of us don’t care to know, that doesn’t translate other aspects of life.

In Asian cultures, for example, they will work in groups faster and more inherently to take advantage of deals as consumers. Western culture tends more towards being singularly competitive; we want to get the deal first and then brag. Then we might share.

These inherent cultural traits impact directly how social groups will use technologies. Sharing in western cultures is very different than Asian. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just the way it is.

If you’re a tech startup in Western society, how you approach the user experience and concept of the platform should begin by understanding social behaviours. This will help in designing the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) in your software. Failing to understand this basic premise of social behaviours is what lead Facebook to fail with Messenger, along with others who’ve tried.

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