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INSIGHTS / MOVERS AND SHAKERS

How Xiaomi founder Lei Jun became a billionaire by pursuing passion, not fortune

China · Nov 27, 2018· By Hua Nan

From young man deconstructing and rebuilding smartphones at Kingsoft to top of the smartphone world as founder and chair of Xiaomi, Lei has always let his interests lead the way

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun prefers to fly economy. The watch he wears is worth just over RMB 1,000 (around US$150). Despite appearances, in the months since Xiaomi went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in July 2018, Lei’s net worth has reached US$11.5 billion, making him one of the richest people in China. Lei’s appreciation for saving money is not simply a lifestyle choice: it’s been one of the keys to his success.

A passion for mobile phones

Born on December 16, 1969, Lei majored in Computer Science at Wuhan University from 1987 to 1991. He finished all the required credits for a bachelor’s degree in just two years. Lei has maintained his work ethic all these years later: working 12–16 hours a day remains the norm.

During his freshman year at Wuhan, Lei read Paul Freiberger’s and Michael Swaine’s book Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer. The story of Steve Jobs helped shape Lei’s dream to build a great business like Apple.

During what would have been his final two years at university, Lei tried to start his own business and developed the encryption software BITLO. By the time he received his bachelor’s degree, Lei had already made his first RMB 1 million.

In a speech at Peking University in 2014, Lei said: “If you are truly interested in your work, you won’t feel exhausted or complain. It’s fun to solve a problem whenever it comes. I’m a mobile phone fanatic; I think about them every day. Building mobile phones is not my job, it's my passion.”

Edited by Wendy Lovinger and Wang Xiao'e

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