China’s Renren Invests in U.S. Startup FiscalNote

Renren has led a $10 million investment in a Washington, D.C.-based startup that uses big data to forecast legislation, the latest move by the Chinese social network to fund innovative companies that could further the company’s growth.

FiscalNote, founded in 2013, uses data-mining software and artificial intelligence to predict legislators’ votes and the success or failure of bills. Among its clients, the company says, are JP Morgan Chase, software firm VMWare, and ride sharing company Uber, which has faced some notable regulatory hurdles of late.

“I see them as a disruptive company because the space they’re going after is huge,” Renren Chief Executive Joe Chen told The Wall Street Journal. “I think just from a pure business point they’re going to be tremendous going forward,” he said.

Renren has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in various startups as users of social networks shift to mobile devices, with Renren finding it harder to make money from ads.

The Beijing company began in 2005 as a Facebook-like social media platform and has not been steadily profitable since then. But the company has recently spread into other areas such as online games and e-commerce, and Chen said in October that he would sell some noncore businesses as part of a move to become profitable. Renren sold its e-commerce division to Baidu in 2013.

“We have a large balance sheet and we want to put that balance sheet to work,” Chen said. He declined to discuss any plans for potential future investments.

The new investment brings FiscalNote’s total funding to $18.3 million, with existing investors having included San Francisco-based Visionnaire Ventures, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban and Singapore state-investment company Temasek Holdings.

FiscalNote will use the new funding to expand, perhaps opening offices in Europe or Asia, said Tim Hwang, FiscalNote’s 22-year-old chief executive and co-founder.

“We are looking at London and Singapore,” he said, noting that the company now has 35 employees, but that number should rise to 100 by the end of the year.

Hwang, a Maryland native, declined to discuss FiscalNote’s valuation or revenues, but said company “could be profitable” if it wanted to.


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