City!N prepares for launch in China

City!N is gearing up for a launch on March 13 in China as the country’s newest social networking service for Asian young adults.

Simon Chan, co-founder of the Guanzhou, China-based site says that the site won’t be just another Facebook clone for China. “We differentiate ourselves with innovative features that fit the tastes and interests of Asian (at this stage, Chinese) users,” he said.

And while the site will start as Chinese-only, Chan says it will expand to English and other languages over time. The company’s site (spelled differently without the exclamation point) is http://www.CityIN.com.

Users create profiles where they explain their interests such as favorite movies, cars, or celebrities.  They rate items and then the site recommends other people in the same local areas who have similar interests.

The company received an undisclosed amount of angel funding in early 2007 from Samson Tam, a Hong Kong entrepreneur who invented an early Chinese-English electronic dictionary.

The company’s founders have been refining their recommendation engine and launched two earlier social networks to test it in different parts of China. They found that what interested students in Guangzhou was different from those in Beijing. The company has 11 employees.

The founders include Chan, 26, and Alex Tam, 25. Chan is a former E-Trade software engineer. Chan and Tam both started a professional social network for university students. They acknowledge that it failed and had to be turned into a job board but say that they learned from the experience.

The competitors targeting students in China include: Xiaonei, Zhanzuo, Yeejee, ChinaRen, and 99sushe.  Outsiders competing in China include MySpace from the U.S., CyWorld from Korea as well as Yeeyoo and UUZone. Chan says that his company will go after highly-educated young Chinese adults and focus on exploiting its market-specific knowledge.
“If Facebook comes to China, we’ll surely give them a hard time,” Chan said.


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