Ma Huateng

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Ma (马).
Mǎ Huàténg
Born (1971-10-29) October 29, 1971 (age 44)
Chaoyang District, Shantou, Shantou, Guangdong, China
Residence Shenzhen, Guangdong
Nationality Chinese
Alma mater Shenzhen University
Occupation Chairman of Tencent
Net worth Increase US$19.4 billion (March 2016)[1]
Spouse(s) Wáng Dāntíng (王丹婷)
Children one

Ma Huateng (Chinese: 马化腾; pinyin: Mǎ Huàténg, born October 29, 1971), also known as Pony Ma, is a Chinese internet entrepreneur. He is the founder, president, chief executive officer and executive board member of Tencent Inc., one of the largest Internet companies in China.[2][3] The company controls China’s biggest mobile instant messaging service and its subsidiaries provide media, entertainment, internet and mobile phone value-added services.

In 2007 and 2014[4] Time magazine called him one of the world's most influential people.[5] As of March 2016 he is the 39th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$19.4 billion, according to the Forbes Global Rich List.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Ma was born in Chaoyang District, Shantou, Guangdong. Not much is known about his early life. In one rare insight into his own psyche, Ma claimed in an interview that as a child he dreamt of becoming an astronomer.[6] When his father, Ma Chenshu, got a job as a port manager in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, the young Ma accompanied him.[7] His father was a member of the Chinese Communist Party.[8]

He enrolled in Shenzhen University in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.[9]

Ma’s first job was with China Motion Telecom Development, a supplier of telecommunications services and products, where he was in charge of developing software for pagers. He reportedly earned $176 per month.[10] He also worked for Shenzhen Runxun Communications Co. Ltd. in the research and development department for Internet calling services.[11]

Founding of Tencent and early career[edit]

Alongside four other classmates, Ma Huateng went on to co-found Tencent in 1998, after making money playing the stock market.[12] In the beginning, Ma took up various roles, ranging from janitor to website designer in a bid to keep the company alive.[12] Like many in China’s tech industry, Ma was inspired by innovations coming out of Europe and the United States and sought to adapt them to the Chinese market. The company’s first product came after Ma participated in a presentation for ICQ, the world’s first Internet instant messaging service, founded in 1996 by an Israeli company.[11] Inspired by the idea, Ma and his team launched in February 1999 a similar software, with a Chinese interface and a slightly different name – OICQ (or, Open ICQ).[13] The product quickly became popular and garnered more than a million registered users by the end of 1999, making it one of the largest such services in China.[6]

Talking about the founding of Tencent, he told The China Daily in a 2009 interview that “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” paraphrasing a quote attributed to Isaac Newton and referencing the similarities between ICQ and QICQ. "We knew our product had a future, but at that time we just couldn't afford it," Ma remembered.[11] In order to solve the problem, Ma asked for bank loans and even talked about selling the company.[14]

Since Tencent's prized service QICQ was offered free of charge, the company looked to venture capitalists to finance its growing operational costs. In 2000, Ma turned to US investment firm IDC and Hong Kong’s telecom carrier Pacific Century CyberWorks (PCCW) who bought 40% of Tencent’s shares for $2.2 million.[15] With the pager market declining, Ma improved the messaging platform by allowing QQ users to send messages to mobile handsets. Afterwards, 80% of the company’s revenue came from deals struck with telecom operators who agreed to share message fees.[14]

AOL lawsuit and global fame[edit]

After AOL (America Online) bought ICQ in 1998, the company filed a lawsuit against Tencent with the National Arbitration Forum in the United States, claiming that QICQ’s domain names and were in violation of ICQ’s intellectual property rights. Tencent lost and had to shut down the websites.[11] In December 2000, in order to stave off other costly lawsuit, Ma changed the name of the software to QQ (with "Q" and "QQ" used to stand for the word "cute")[16]

After the AOL lawsuit, Ma Huateng decided to expand the business portfolio of Tencent. In 2003, Tencent released its own portal ( and made forays into the online games market. By 2004, Tencent became the largest Chinese instant messaging service (holding 74% of the market),[14] prompting Ma to list the company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.[11] After the company raised $200 million in June’s IPO, Ma quickly became one of the richest people in China’s telecom industry.

In 2004, Tencent launched an online gaming platform and started selling virtual goods to support the games published on that platform (weapons, gaming power), as well as emoticons and ringtones.[6]

At Ma’s behest, Tencent launched in 2005 the C2C platform, a direct competitor to e-ecommerce giant Alibaba.[17]

Mimicking Bill GatesMicrosoft, Ma Huateng created two competing teams of engineers in 2010 and charged them with creating a new product. After two months, one team presented an app for text messaging and group chat – Weixin – which launched in January 2011. In 2015, Weixin (or WeChat in English), is the largest instant messaging platform in the world, used by 48% of all Internet users.[6][18]

Other diverse services provided by Tencent include web portals, e-commerce, and multiplayer online games.[8] Online games such as Legend of Yulong and Legend of Xuanyuan boosted revenue by more than half, up to US$ 5.1 billion, with a US$ 1.5 billion profit margin.[7]

In December 2015, Ma Huateng announced that Tencent will build an "internet hospital" set up in Wuzhen that will provide long-distance diagnoses and medicine delivery.[19]

Relationship with the Chinese Communist Party[edit]

Because of Tencent’s dominance of the social network and instant messaging markets in China, Ma Huateng’ relationship with the Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly come under scrutiny. Talking about censorship at a tech conference in Singapore, Ma was quoted as saying "Lots of people think they can speak out and that they can be irresponsible. I think that's wrong […] We are a great supporter of the government in terms of the information security. We try to have a better management and control of the Internet”.[20]

A 2015 study undertaken by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab showed that WeChat censorship is extensive and differs from elsewhere.[21] While calls for protests, collective actions against the government, the 1989 Tianmen Square revolt, mentions of official corruption are frequently banned on all Chinese outlets, WeChat also censors a high proportion of posts related to rumors or misinformation. The researchers found that, of all the posts checked, 3.97% were censored.[21]

According to the Tencent website, Ma is a deputy to the 5th Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress and serves in the 12th National People’s Congress.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Ma uses the nickname Pony, derived from the English translation of his family name, which means “horse”.[14]

Ma Huateng seldom appears in the media and is known for his secretive lifestyle.[22] He believes in the maxim: “Ideas are not important in China – execution is.”[18]

He is married to Wáng Dāntíng (王丹婷) and they have a child together. Ma stated that he met his future wife through the QQ messaging service.[8]

Ma Huateng’s wealth comes from the 9.7% stake in Tencent Holdings. He reportedly owns property in Hong Kong and art pieces worth $150 million.[23] He owns a redeveloped palatial residence of 19,600 sq ft in Hong Kong.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Global Rich List". Hurun Report. 
  2. ^ Investing in China: The Emerging Venture Capital Industry Jonsson Yinya Li, Google Book Search
  3. ^ a b Tencent Tencent official site
  4. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". Time. April 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ Biographical Dictionary of New Chinese Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, Pg. 111 Ilan Alon and Wenxian Zhang. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009. Google Book Search.
  6. ^ a b c d "Tencent: The Secretive, Chinese Tech Giant That Can Rival Facebook and Amazon". Fast Company. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  7. ^ "Tencent's Ma Huateng is China's second-richest man on WeChat mania". Retrieved 2016-01-12.  External link in |website= (help)
  8. ^ a b "Ma Huateng – Family , Family Tree | Celebrity Family". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  9. ^ "Pony Ma - Founder, Executive Director & CEO @ Tencent Holdings | CrunchBase". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  10. ^ "Tencent's Ma becomes China's second-richest man". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "A mysterious message millionaire". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  12. ^ a b "Ma Huateng Story - Bio, Facts, Networth, Family, Auto, Home | Famous Chairmans | SuccessStory". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  13. ^ "Ma Huateng | Chinese entrepreneur". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Pony Ma Biography - life, family, name, young, born, time, year, Career, Sidelights - Newsmakers Cumulation". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  15. ^ "Ten Years of Tencent -- Beijing Review". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  16. ^ "Language Log » A New Morpheme in Mandarin". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  17. ^ "Tech in Asia - Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  18. ^ a b M, Swathi R. "Internet Users In Malaysia Are More Active On WhatsApp And Facebook Than Those In US, UK And China [REPORT]". Dazeinfo. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  19. ^ "What are the next big things in the world of high technology? Let China's internet giants tell you". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  20. ^ Fuchs, Christian (2015-01-09). Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media. Routledge. ISBN 9781317558194. 
  21. ^ a b "Tracking Censorship on WeChat's Public Accounts Platform". The Citizen Lab. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  22. ^ "Pony Ma and his Tencent". Luxatic. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  23. ^ a b "Ma vs. Ma: The most expensive house in Hong Kong belongs to one of China's internet kings - but is it Jack or Pony?". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2016-01-12.