Alibaba invests in Visualead, an Israeli startup that generates QR codes


Alibaba invests in Visualead, an Israeli startup that generates QR codes  – Alibaba has announced it has helped raise a series B round in Israel’s Visualead, a startup that lets users generate visually appealing QR codes. The size of Alibaba’s investment remains undisclosed, but Visualead has previously raised US$2.4 million to according to CrunchBase.

Visualead helps small business create QR codes that blend into images more seamlessly than standard black-and-white QR codes. Using the company’s web-based service, users can upload images, specify urls, and generate QR codes that mesh into the particular graphic. The company offers numerous tiers for individuals and enterprises based on the number of QR codes they hope to create.


Visualead is no stranger to China. In May 2014 company inked a partnership with Renren, China’s once-hip Facebook analog. It also has an office in Shanghai and several Chinese staff members. The company’s website even features the company logo in English and Chinese – so you ought to have no doubt about where Visualead’s target market is.

According to a release from Visualead, Alibaba will help its Taobao and Tmall vendors integrate Visualead into their marketing initiatives. The Chinese ecommerce giant has its own QR-code initiative, Mashangtao, which helps merchants create QR codes for any number of purposes like parcel tracking or marketing.

“We believe that Visualead’s leading Visual QR Code technology will complement our mobile marketing initiatives and enhance our ability to take advantage of the booming O2O opportunities in China,” said Zhang Kuo, director of Alibaba Group’s Mashangtao technology service, in a prepared statement.

Alibaba has invested in a number of overseas startups over the past two years. Some of these investments haven’t borne any fruit that ordinary consumers would notice. Others appear to be deeper collaborations. Following Alibaba’s investment in Quixey, the Mountan View-based startup found its nascent in-app search technology imported onto Yun OS, Alibaba’s mobile operating system. In effect, Alibaba is providing the Quixey with a massive testbed, full of Alibaba-backed properties like UCWeb and Youku, in which it can fine tune its product.

See: China loves QR codes, and Visualead can make them more beautiful

This investment has only just been announced, but already looks likely to follow a similar path. China’s internet giants are aggressively investing in online-to-offline technology that merges mobile marketing and payments with the storefront shopping experience. Alibaba leads China in ecommerce and online payments. The company recently reported that 54 percent of transactions made on Alipay, the company’s third-party payment service, took place on mobile devices. The company regularly offers incentives in order to promote in-store payments using Alipay Wallet, Alipay’s corresponding mobile app.

Yet Alibaba, despite its dominance in China’s ecommerce industry, faces a formidable threat from Tencent, Baidu, and Wanda. The former two internet giants have formed a joint venture with the real estate conglomerate that’s all about merging offline retail with online retail. Details remain scarce on how the three firms will work together, but given Tencent’s dominance in social and ambitions for ecommerce, it will likely overlap with Alibaba’s ambitions for Alipay Wallet. Investments in companies like Visualead will help Alibaba maintain its ties with vendors, and in turn, keep its customers loyal.

On a side note, Alibaba’s deal with Visualead marks its first disclosed investment in an Israeli company (though for what it’s worth, Quixey’s and Tango’s founders also have ties to the country). But Chinese investors have lately been just as bullish on Israel as everyone else. As the Wall Street Journal wrote last September, Lenovo, Ping An Ventures, and Yongjin group have each earmarked venture funds specifically for Israeli companies.

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