BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 19: (CHINA OUT) Lei Jun, founder and chairman of Xiaomi Inc, makes a speech during the press conference of Mi TV3 and Ninebot on October 19, 2015 in Beijing, China. Xiaomi launched new products including the Mi TV3 and Ninebot on Monday in Beijing. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
Until Uber passed it in July, Xiaomi was the world’s most highly valued startup, at $46 billion. Wait—a Chinese smartphone company worth what? Lei Jun and Xiaomi have spent the better part of this year explaining why that optimism is justified. It’s about more than just phones. The company has so far invested in a couple dozen device companies—with plans to fund at least 100—selling air purifiers, GoPro-like cameras, and hi-fi headphones in a bid to create an ecosystem that will replicate the success of Apple’s universe. Xiaomi’s backers say it makes money selling phones. But Xiaomi is trying to prove to skeptics that it can do much more.