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China's Cheetah Mobile CEO Says Free Is the Right Price for Mobile Software

CEO Sheng Fu said that China's tech companies know how to do high-quality free software better than anyones and his company is proof.

Cheetah Mobile

Sheng Fu says he is living the American Dream — well, at least the Chinese version of it.

Fu is the CEO of Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese mobile software company that went public earlier this year.

Cheetah Mobile

“It only took us four years to build an IPO company, and it only took us eighteen months to expand globally,” Fu said, speaking Tuesday at the GMIC SV conference in San Francisco.

Though few have heard of Cheetah Mobile, it has several Android utility products that are consistently among the top downloads in the Google Play store. They are unglamorous but useful titles like Clean Master, Battery Doctor and Photo Grid.

Despite its products being free, Fu says Cheetah’s business is strong, with sales increasing 150 percent per year for the past two years, with third-quarter sales of more than 478 million Chinese Yuan ($77.7 million).

Part of Cheetah’s success — and that of China’s as a whole, Fu said — is that the intense competition of the Chinese market leads to products that can compete globally. There are so many recent university graduates working in tech, all with their startups looking to find their place in the market, he said.

Also, Chinese companies saw the impact that piracy played in the PC software era, and China’s mobile companies grew up knowing they would need to make money without getting consumers to open their wallets.

“Chinese companies are so good at making free but high-quality products,” he said.

This article originally appeared on

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