- Tram Ho
The billionaire founder behind the TikTok app and his parent company ByteDance is quite tight-lipped. Although TikTok has achieved global success, with 2 billion downloads, many people outside China hardly know anything about who is behind this application.
Currently, holds 16.2 billion USD and is the 10th richest person in China but the information about Zhang Yiming’s personal life is almost unavailable.
Ambition to become an entrepreneur from a young age
Zhang Yiming was born in 1983 in Fujian province, China. Zhang’s parents are both public servants. Throughout childhood, the topics that Zhang’s parents talked about were often related to new technologies abroad or the development of a product.
The fact that the whole family always mentions entrepreneurial stories has helped Zhang get interested in business and innovate from a young age.
Unlike everyone else, Zhang’s parents encourage their children to try new things and allow him to decide the direction of his life very early.
In high school, while friends all wanted to be scientists, they also studied chemistry well, but Zhang thinks mixing chemicals to create chemical reactions is tasteless and even dangerous.
He wanted a sense of being “involved” and “possessing” in the activities he did and chemistry didn’t give him those things.
In 2001, he enrolled at Nakei University majoring in microelectronics before moving into software engineering. He graduated from university in 2005.
“When I was in college, I wanted to create something of value. For example, I could make chips or do something groundbreaking in health.”
In the following year after graduation, he got his first job at a startup booking online travel service called Kuxun. “I was one of the first employees, the first in the first group. But in the second year, I was in charge of 40-50 people in the technology support team and other product related activities. “.
Zhang’s boss liked him and he was promoted to Chief Technology Officer a year later.
Zhang believes that his job at Kuxun taught him selling skills to later serve ByteDance. “I remember that at the end of 2007, I met a customer and a sales manager. This experience made me know what a good sales person is. When I formed Toutiao and recruited employees, it helped me a lot.” “.
The train ticket to the countryside
Once while still working at Kuxun, Zhang wanted to book a train ticket back home. At that time, it was difficult to buy tickets at the train station and he did not know when the ticket was open for sale.
Kuxun’s search engine, like any other, requires users to enter information each time to find what they want and check the ticket in real time. But Zhang wanted to create a search engine that immediately informed him when tickets were available instead of having to search again and again. He spent 1 hour writing a program during lunch time.
After finishing, he left the office. Less than half an hour later, he received a notice that a new ticket was available so he went to the train station to buy. As a result, Zhang didn’t need to buy tickets from the ticket side or sit on the computer front. Afterwards, Zhang Yiming always thought of ways to find information more effectively.
In 2006, Zhang left Kuxun to work at Microsoft because he wanted to know how to manage their operations. However, he soon got tired of the company rules. So he left Microsoft soon to join Fanfou startup – a website that copied Twitter’s model in China. However, this startup was not successful.
Two years later, in 2009, when Kuxun was acquired by Expedia, Zhang acquired Kuxun’s real estate search business and started 99fang.com – its first company.
Establish a hundred billion dollar empire
While working at 99fang.com, Zhang observed that many users switched from computers to mobile. He became interested in mobile development. In 6 months, he launched 5 mobile applications including a renting and buying application. It earned 1.5 million users and 99fang soon became the most popular real estate application.
At that time, Zhang thought that Chinese mobile users were having trouble finding information in mobile apps, and search giant Baidu had built up search results with ads. Zhang wants to create a platform where the results are done by AI, changing user habits.
That’s why he decided to hire a CEO to run 99fang so that he could focus on creating a new startup.
And so Bytedance was born, in his 4-bedroom apartment in Beijing in 2012. This was Zhang’s fifth start up.
Initially, investors did not welcome Bytedance’s products. Until Susquehanna International Group agrees to pour money for them. The company raised $ 5 million in Series A. It was launched by Toutiao in August 2012 and in 2 years, it attracted 13 million active users every day. Toutiao is a newspaper reader, which gathers information about users’ reading and searching habits, then suggests news to them. The more users read, the more Toutiao understands them and keeps them staying longer on the app.
Toutiao’s success quickly helped Zhang attract world attention when he reached the top 30 under 30 Forbes China.
A year later, Sequoia Fund, the company that initially refused to invest in Zhang’s startup, decided to pour $ 100 million into the company. With more capital, Zhang launched Toutiaohao, which attracted users to create their own content.
TikTok global phenomenon
In June 2017, Zhang silently developed an app that users could edit, video with many filters, sound effects available and then share directly to social networks like Weibo or WeChat.
This application was made in 200 days, named Douyin. Within a year, it reached 100 million users with more than 1 billion videos viewed every day. Seeing a good response to Douyin, Zhang started building its global version.
As a result, in 2017, TikTok was born. It has been introduced to international markets, many countries in Asia and America.
In mid-2018, Shanghai-based Musical.ly is very popular among young people in the US and Europe. This platform allows users to publicly dance their song, through short videos. In two months, ByteDance spent at least $ 1 billion to acquire Musical.ly. In August 2018, Tiktok merged with Musical.ly to create a larger video community.
That same year, Bytedance received $ 3 billion in investments from Softbank and other investors. TikTok becomes the third most downloaded non-gaming application in the world, after WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
It became a global cultural phenomenon and was downloaded 1.57 billion times with nearly half of that being 689 in 2019. During the Covid-19 epidemic, TikTok reached 2 billion downloads, officially becoming into the most installed application on the planet.
In 2018, ByteDance surpassed Uber to become the most valuable startup on the planet. ByteDance is currently valued at more than $ 100 billion after the latest round of funding. The company also reported a net profit of $ 3 billion in total revenue of $ 17 billion in 2019, double the figure in 2018.
However, they are currently facing a few difficulties. The wave of boycott of TikTok is happening not only in India but also in the US. Many people believe that TikTok can become “2nd Huawei” under strong sanctions from the US.
However, with Zhang, he never stopped anyway. “Google is a company without borders. I hope Toutiao will do it like Google. I personally always hope to do interesting and meaningful things for society.” That may be an implication that Bytedance will most likely create another booming application like TikTok.
Source : Genk