Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans US debut

Following the announcement of what may potentially be the largest IPO in tech company history, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has announced that they will expand operations outside of China with a US debut which is coming soon.

Alibaba plans to debut under the name 11main.com, which, while not currently available to the public, boasts an email field for early invites and a shortlist of news outlets which have mentioned the site. They intend to provide early access to customers and retailers by invitation only, with a full release later on.

Although Alibaba is noted for its business-to-business and wholesale trading platforms, 11main's preview has a touch of Etsy; small, customer-driven shop owners who can open "storefronts" and sell their products via 11main -- whether they be handcrafted sunglasses, books, or customized phone cases. As it stands, the site clearly intends to appeal to a more trendy audience, but with Alibaba's business model, the potential is there for anyone to open up a storefront and sell what they wish.

According to Alexa, Alibaba.com is the 21st most highly-trafficked site in China -- and last year, the company pulled in a net profit of $2.9 billion. Considering their upcoming IPO, it makes sense for Alibaba to expand into other markets. And unlike their China sites, Alibaba's 11main seeks to carry a visual appeal to its US audience. The entire site carries a perhaps-overdone frontend design, whereas Alibaba.com relies on a more barebones layout to communicate its message.

That being said, the move is still gutsy considering the circumstances. If the launch is a flop, Alibaba's IPO might sink -- and while they can rest comfortably on their billions in profits, rocking the boat before a major move may not be in the best interest for the company.

Source: BBCImage via 11main

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