It’s not good to be CEO of a Chinese tech giant right now: Jack Ma has virtually disappeared from radar for over six months, Colin Huang, boss of e-commerce number three Pinduoduo, resigned in March, and Thursday, May 20, it was Zhang Yiming, the discreet founder of ByteDance, the most expensive start-up in the world to which we owe in particular TikTok, who announced that he would be stepping down within six months. If he will keep his seat on the board of directors of the company, he says he wants to devote himself more to long-term foresight. In the background, a vast campaign against the monopoly practices of the big tech groups: Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance, Meituan, Baidu… no one is spared.
Zhang Yiming explained his decision in a letter to his troops: “Since the start of the year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to encourage long-term breakthroughs. After months of reflection, I came to the conclusion that gradually stepping out of the role of CEO, with all of its day-to-day responsibilities, would allow me to have more impact on long-term initiatives. “ Further on, he even writes : “In reality, I do not have the qualities required for an ideal leader (…) I am not very social, I prefer solitary activities like going on the internet, reading, listening to music and daydreaming about what is possible. “
In his place, his closest partner, Liang Rubo, will take the reins of the company. Former roommates at Nankai University (Tianjin), the two friends launched their first real estate start-up, before founding ByteDance in 2012. After Toutiao, an information aggregator, the group specializes in recommending content that will make TikTok, its short video platform, a success. While ByteDance diversifies from video games to education, via e-commerce, Liang Rubo has until now assumed responsibility for human resources, an essential branch for a company which hired 40,000 employees in 2020 … With 100,000 employees, ByteDance already has more recruits than Facebook.
Nine years after the creation of the company, ByteDance has become, notably thanks to the global success of TikTok, the most expensive start-up in the world, with an estimated value of 180 billion dollars last December. Enough to make Zhang Yiming China’s fifth fortune, with $ 36 billion, according to the ranking Forbes. But potentially much more during an upcoming IPO: according to Bloomberg, the company has started to prepare for the IPO in Hong Kong or New York of its Chinese activities. “As the long-awaited introduction of ByteDance draws near, Zhang’s fortune risks attracting media attention: he is likely to become the richest man in China,” notes Michael Norris, chief strategy officer for Agency China, a consulting firm in Shanghai.
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