The Story of Zhang Yiming and Tiktok

Who is this young man who made $12 billion in just one year?

Zhang Yiming and Tiktok
Zhang Yiming and Tiktok (Credit: Business insider)

Zhang Yiming, a chinese internet entrepreneur, made more than US$12 billion in 2018 alone. He is the founder of Bytedance, the company behind the popular video sharing platform TikTok. At age 37 and with a net worth of $16 billion, he is the 67th world’s richest person and 9th richest Chinese on the Forbes List of billionaires as of April 26, 2020. Bytedance, the company he founded, is now the most valuable start-up company with a value over $90 billion.

Zhang Yiming was born in Fujian, China in the month April, 1983. His parents worked as civil servants. After finishing software engineering from Nankai University in Tianjin City, he went to work as an engineer at the travel website Kuxun where he became a technical director a year later. He transferred to Microsoft in 2008 but soon left for start-up Fanfou. In 2009 or barely four years after his graduation from college, he founded his first company, 99fang.com

2012 was an auspicious year for Zhang Yiming. Noticing how smartphones were becoming popular especially with the millenials, he established ByteDance Ltd. with a vision to introduce relevant content to smartphone users. The first application to be launched was Neihan Duanzi, allowing users to share jokes, memes, and humorous videos. Next it introduced Toutiao, a news application, and immediately hit 1 million daily users just after four months.

Fast forward to 2016. ByteDance launched Douyin, an application used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. It was a huge success attracting more than 100 million Chinese users within the year. The following year, it introduced the same application for the outside China market but with a different brand: TikTok. Again, it was met with so much enthusiasm especially with celebrities. In Thailand and many other countries, it became no. 1 among free app downloads on app stores.

Despite the immense success of TikTok and the high valuation given to ByteDance, Zhang Yiming remained a very private person and little is known about his personal life. A lot of controversies surround the operation of the company including security risk and censorship and yet he remained elusive to media interviews.

References:
1. Business Insider – https://www.businessinsider.com/tiktok-billionaire-zhang-yiming-net-worth-lifestyle-2019-11#zhang-35-lives-in-beijing-china-1
2. South China Morning Post – https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/news-trends/article/3023093/how-did-tiktoks-zhang-yiming-become-one-chinas-richest
3. Technode.com – https://technode.com/2020/03/31/bytedance-may-now-be-worth-100-billion/
4. forbes.com – https://www.forbes.com/real-time-billionaires/#33002a843d78

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