I just read on China Tech News that UUSee, one of several popular P2P-powered television streaming sites now operating in China, has raised a handsome second round from some top-flight VCs including DFJ's Growth Fund, Highland Capital Partners and Steamboat Ventures. Congrats to the founding team, and to Sequoia's China team, who backed them in their first round.
For various reasons, part of which have to do with what's been so far a relatively lax regulatory environment, China has produced some genuinely kick-ass P2P networks--Xunlei, which Google invested in, and the lamentably named PPLive and PPStream, to name just a few making use of peer-to-peer technology. Lots of these are, shall we say, somewhat cavalier about intellectual property issues. UUSee's a different animal, working closely with big content providers.
Last fall, before I left Red Herring, I had lunch with with Sequoia partner Zhang Fan here in Beijing, and he introduced me to UUsee, explaining that what they're doing is quite similar to the Zennstrom/Friis project then known cryptically as "Venice" and now released in beta as Joost. (Get ourself invited: it's pretty impressive). While UUsee sure could stand to borrow some interface and artistic inspiration from Joost, I think Zhang Fan's basically right about the similarities in the underlying technology: basically, a distributed network of cached supernodes supplementing a peer network.
What's the future look like for P2P video streaming in China? Shanghai-based iResearch put the number of online video viewers at 63 million in 2006, and projects that will reach 180 million by 2010. Pre-roll video ad will be the key to monetizing this, of course. Sequoia is already backing one company that looks promising in that space--a start-up that's attracting a lot of attention in the China VC community. But I'll make you do your homework if you want to find out who they are.
My prediction for 2007/2008 (depending on timing of 3G network rollout): we'll see mobile P2P-based networks popping up like mushrooms across China.