The billionaire tech visionary behind TikTok, Telecom News, ET Telecom
But at just 38, he has also found that having a seat at the top of the table in China’s turbulent tech scene comes at a heavy political and managerial price.
Zhang’s startup Bytedance owns the TikTok video app, whose kaleidoscopic streams of 15- to 60-second clips feature everything from hair dye tutorials to dance routines and everyday jokes.
The former computer programmer started Bytedance in 2012 with his college friend and roommate Liang Rubo, the company’s human resources director who will succeed Zhang as CEO this year.
Zhang said the couple bonded through “the love of computers,” buying a computer and monitor for each other as students at one of China’s top universities in Tianjin City, China. the north of the country.
He then made a name for himself helping other students set up computers – that’s how he met his sweetheart in college, whom he later married.
In a leaving memo uncluttered by the ritualistic self-congratulation of senior managers, Zhang said he was leaving the post because he says he lacks management skills and prefers to “dream about what might be possible. “to lead the tech giant.
It also hopes to focus on “social responsibility” and is already ranked among China’s top charitable donors.
But he is resigning at a time of great pressure for many Chinese tech companies, with Beijing cracking down on its digital behemouths that wield enormous influence over millions of Chinese consumers.
With a net worth of $ 36 billion, Zhang is now the fifth richest person in China, according to Forbes.
Although in the upper echelons of the Beijing Billionaire Club, Zhang described himself in his outspoken post as “not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music.”
His decision to hand over day-to-day management of the business follows similar initiatives from other tech moguls, including Colin Huang of e-commerce giant Pinduoduo.
“The regulatory environment for tech companies in China is constantly changing and it requires a lot of energy and effort,” said Shen Meng, director of Beijing-based boutique investment bank Chanson & Co.
“Wearing two hats in a company as important as ByteDance is just too stressful. “
– See the right time – The young company prides itself on using artificial intelligence to personalize news feeds according to user interests, with a keen eye on the needs of the younger generations in China.
Zhang says the success of his business is due to his “ability to innovate at the right time”.
The group’s first flagship was the hugely popular Chinese news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao, and its best results now include the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, as well as the Lark productivity app.
Bytedance has over 60,000 employees in over 30 countries, and TikTok has built a significant following in the United States and Southeast Asian markets.
“ByteDance is mature enough to take a step back,” said Ke Yan, Singapore-based analyst at DZT Research.
“He can now selectively do what he thinks is important, instead of being a CEO who has to deal with serious matters.”
But the self-proclaimed dreamer has come under enormous pressure to convince the world that TikTok will not turn over data to the Chinese Communist Party.
Former US President Donald Trump has barred demands from Bytedance for security reasons, including calls that TikTok’s US operations be sold to a US company or risk being shut down.
Bytedance has also been the subject of bans and fines in the US and Pakistan for collecting content or data – and has been stranded in India amid bitter tensions between Delhi and Beijing.
For Zhang, the pressure drove him to seek a simpler professional life.
“I have come to the conclusion that leaving the position of CEO, with all the associated day-to-day responsibilities, would allow me to have a greater impact on longer-term initiatives,” he said in his statement announcing that ‘he withdrew. down.
By stepping down from the leading role, the former programmer hopes to have “the space” to take “a more objective view of the business.”