The Chinese billionaire behind TikTok is Zhang Yiming’s a 36-year-old tech guru whose eye for trends and use of AI has made the app a global phenom. His Company Bytedance is also working with the government to control content within China.
His Beijing-based startup, Bytedance owns TikTok, whose trendy feeds of 15 to 60-second clips features everything from hair-dye tutorials to dance routines and jokes about daily life.
Since its 2017 launching, TikTok has received more than 1.5 billion downloads, according to Sensor Tower a US-based research agency. The app is very popular in India, the US, and Indonesia.
Its rise has also raised security concerns and last month 2 US senators said it could leave users vulnerable to spying by Beijing.
Bytedance, founded by Zhang in 2012, uses artificial intelligence to tailor newsfeeds to users’ interests.
“The new generation… want to share their real feelings, whether good or bad. They are more direct and expressive,” according to Bo Ji, Cheung Kong’s Graduate School of Business assistant dean.
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The company experiences “huge and immediate success” because it pays close attention to its young users, he said.
TikTok is Bytedance’s most popular app, while its other products in China and abroad include news aggregators and productivity tools.
Together they have made Zhang a former programmer, a billionaire.
He was listed in the top 20 of the Hurun China Rich List with $13.5 billion in wealth in 2019, surpassing more established tech tycoons, such as the founder of search giant Baidu.
The Unusual Entrepreneur
Zhang’s fortunes were given a huge boost with Bytedance’s 2017 acquisition of lip-syncing video app Musical.ly. It later merged with TikTok, in a deal reportedly worth around $1 billion.
“Mr Zhang is unusual Chinese entrepreneur,” said Bo.
“He built something for the world; he understands the young people and their psychology.”
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