Chinese firm Alibaba Group has launched 11main.com, an e-commerce site that represents its first formal venture into the U.S. marketplace. The invite-only site offers a curated collection of items available from specialty stores and small-business retailers. The products, which are not available at big box stores or large e-commerce sites like Amazon, run the gamut from fashion and furniture to kids’ items and home décor.
“Alibaba believes in 11 Main’s vision and its commitment to helping small businesses grow,” said Michael Zeisser, chairman of U.S. Investments, Alibaba Group. “11 Main brings something incredibly unique to the U.S. market, and we’re very excited to support the 11 Main team as they begin to realize this vision.” The site is still in its beta phase, and will eventually feature hundreds of thousands of products from various U.S. vendors.
On the same day it launched 11 Main, Alibaba Group also announced it will fully buy Chinese mobile browser company UCWeb, making for the biggest Internet merger ever in China. Alibaba had already owned two-thirds of UCWeb – analysts estimate Alibaba will pay more than $630 million for the remaining third. Alibaba has spent nearly $6 billion in acquisitions since the start of the year.
The deal, experts say, signals Alibaba’s intention to expand its footprint in the mobile realm as it competes with Chinese mobile companies Tencent and Baidu, in particular in the areas of mobile payment, searches and gaming. “UC is an important factor in China’s industry today,” wrote Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group and a perennial member of Counselor’s Power 50 list, in a letter to his company’s employees. “It has shown strength in international development and we believe the integration of UC and Alibaba will bring more change and imagination to the industry.”
The moves by Alibaba come as the Chinese e-commerce company last month filed for an initial public offering in the U.S., which will likely occur later this year.