Lillian Li β€” Intro to Bilibili

A product-focused founder's notes on Lillian Li's Introduction to Bilibili.

What is Bilibili?

Video + community platform based in China. Appeals to Gen Z and a niche (but growing!) community of Anime, Gaming, and Comics (AGC) enthusiasts. Bilibili purposefully introduces friction to join and makes content come alive with a rich community through bullet commentary (time-stamped comments overlaid on video). Because of their strong community, Bilibili enjoys incredibly high retention.

What stands out?

  • Appeals to a young and niche (but growing!) subculture. 81% of users are born in the 2000's according to SEC filing in 2017. Appeals primarily to AGC enthusiasts.
  • Purposefully introduces friction. While UGC platforms in the west focus on reducing friction, Bilibili limits its userbase to dedicated members that will engage deeply with content and community. It does this by requiring new members to pass a one hour 100-question quiz.
  • Makes content and community feel alive through bullet commentary. A big draw for new users, bullet comments are more contextual and engaging by appearing directly on top of the video at the timestamp they were left. After the initial chaos, they make the content and community feel alive β€” akin to sitting in a lively movie theatre or following a show's live tweets.
  • Incredibly high retention. 80%+ 12-month user retention rate. 1 Due, in no small part, to high friction leading to strong community.
  • Own-it-all approach to Gen Z UGC video. Instead of focusing on one vertical across all demographics, Bilibili has taken an own it all approach for Gen Z's video needs. They offer UGC video, live streaming, community, over-the-top professionally-generated content, and gaming. 3
  • Monetizes mostly through non-advertising methods. Mobile games, live streaming and premium memberships, and e-commerce. 2 4

How and why was it founded?

Founded by an Anime, Gaming, and Comics (AGC) enthusiast out of frustration of the reliability the leading Chinese anime platform at the time. It is now ran by an early angel investor and more professionally-oriented CEO.

Quotes from the article


Bilibili wants to own the Chinese Gen Z population's attention through providing a comprehensive entertainment service rather than be the platform that caters for all Chinese UGC video needs.


Every single social platform in the west that I can think of focuses on reducing the registration friction... Bilibili’s process seems counter-intuitive until you factor in that its aim is sustainable growth. Sustainable growth means that they want to let in dedicated members who will engage earnestly with the content, and having a pretty time-consuming quiz does filter for that. It's an initiation ritual that signals and cements the bond users have with the platform. New users are also more culturally aligned with the existing community, which means fewer flame wars and less exodus of the original community. In other words, it deters the trolls.


The feeling from watching a video with bullet commentary, after the initial chaos, is one of tapping into the hive mind, or sitting in a rambunctious movie theatre, or following a show's live tweets. What Twitch, Rabbit and Bilibili all know is that seeing the real-time reaction of others make you feel like you're watching amongst friends. The collective response and commentary is also a form of meme generation that often makes the original material even funnier.


The virtuous feedback created by these features impacts not just the user growth but also the user’s engagement and emotional connection with the platform.

Charts & Tables