- Tram Ho
TikTok is the leading “lip sync” app that is popular among young people today. However, for Alex Zhu, it was a project born of despair.
In the summer of 2014, Alex Zhu and Louis Yang were still reeling from the failure of their first brainchild – an educational app that wanted to combine Coursera and Twitter in one product. He discovered that people don’t really want to use smartphones to learn. Instead, they mostly browse Facebook, play games, text. The phone is for entertainment and connection only.
With the remaining money from the $ 250,000 raised from previous venture capitalists, Zhu came up with the next idea on the train to Mountain View, California, USA. There, he saw teenagers listening to music, taking pictures, taking selfies, and showing each other his screen. It made him think that they might love the application that combines all these elements.
The result was Musical.ly. With Musical.ly, everyone becomes an entertainment star.
Within a year, Musical.ly topped the App Store charts in the US. This is a rare case for an application developed by the Chinese. Zhu used to work at German SAP software company in the US but then moved to Shanghai, where most of the Musical.ly group live. More than 10 years ago, he studied civil engineering at Zhejiang University.
In August 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg invited Zhu to the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California to negotiate the acquisition of Musical.ly, according to BuzzFeed’s source. The discussions took place the following month when a Facebook group visited Zhu and Yang in Shanghai. Perhaps, Facebook views Musical.ly as a risk.
If you watch some Zhu videos of speeches at various technology events, the first thing you can realize is that he is quite funny, easygoing and receives lots of laughter from the audience. His ambition for Musical.ly is also very clear.
In 2016, when talking to investor Josh Elman, Zhu compared building social networks to creating a country. The first goal was to entice people from elsewhere to move to the new kingdom, similar to what America did in the 18th century.
“You want to build an economy, you want to have residents and you want people to move from Europe to your country. For Musical.ly, Instagram is Europe, Facebook is Europe. ” He likens the youth to join Musical.ly with immigrants pursuing the American dream. They see ordinary people become famous through the application and want to be like that.
Later, Musical.ly was acquired but not by Facebook. At the end of 2016, Chinese startup ByteDance launched an application called Douyin similar to Musical.ly. ByteDance bought Zhu’s company for $ 1 billion at the end of 2017. In 2018, it merged with TikTok, the international version of Douyin.
After helping with the transfer, Zhu spent several months resting, going to a club in Shanghai and listening to jazz. The 40-year-old man still maintains his artistic and philosophical personality. His personal blog is “The passion of Sisyphus”, named after the Greek hero who was punished for pride, cheating, forced to roll a large rock up the hill. The blog was last updated in 2012, filled with poetry and short stories.
At present, Zhu heads TikTok and reports directly to ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming. That means he must ensure to convince US authorities that the Chinese origin of the application is not something to be feared. In an interview with The New York Times, when asked about the situation if President Xi Jinping asked for video removal or user data, he replied, “I will reject him.”
Source : GenK