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INSIGHTS / MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Zhang Yiming: The man who said no to Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent

China · Mar 26, 2019· By Z. Wang

Eschewing help from BAT to grow ByteDance, Zhang has solidified his reputation as an entrepreneur who stands his ground

After ByteDance secured its pre-IPO financing in October 2018, it was valued at over US$75 billion, becoming one of the world’s most valuable startups. Its founder and CEO, Zhang Yiming, is currently worth US$16.2 billion

A software engineering graduate of Nankai University, Zhang started ByteDance in 2012 when he was 29 years old. He has since grown his company into an operator of a raft of platforms that enable users to create, consume and interact with content in multiple forms, including short video and news.

ByteDance’s most popular content platforms reach millions of Chinese people every day. AI-powered news aggregator Jinri Toutiao – which means “today's headlines” in Chinese – has over 240 million daily active users (DAUs). Viral video app Tik Tok (known in China as Douyin) boasts over 500 million daily active users (DAUs) in China and abroad.

Too nice to be bossy

China’s tech landscape is overshadowed by three companies: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (collectively known as BAT). Most Chinese startups with high valuations have received at least some funding from BAT.

Baidu funded Foxconn and NIO; Alibaba invested in Ele.me and SenseTime; Mobike and Pinduoduo are backed by Tencent. Yet, despite all the money and resources BAT have to offer, ByteDance’s founder wants nothing to do with the three tech powerhouses.

Edited by Wendy Lovinger and Wang Xiao'e

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