Zhang Yiming (simplified Chinese: 张一鸣; traditional Chinese: 張一鳴; born April 1983) is a Chinese internet entrepreneur. He founded ByteDance in 2012 and developed the news aggregator Toutiao and the video sharing platform TikTok (Douyin). As of 2019, with more than 1 billion monthly users, ByteDance is valued at US$75 billion, making it the most valuable startup in the world. Zhang's personal wealth is estimated at $13 billion, making him the ninth richest person in China.
Early life and career
Zhang was born in April 1983. In 2001, he entered Nankai University in Tianjin, where he majored in microelectronics before changing to software engineering, and graduated in 2005. He met his wife at the university.
In February 2006, Zhang became the fifth employee and the first engineer at the travel website Kuxun (酷讯), and was promoted to technical director a year later.
In 2008, Zhang left Kuxun to work for Microsoft, but felt stifled by the corporate rules of the company. He soon left Microsoft to join the startup Fanfou (饭否), which eventually failed. In 2009, when Kuxun was about to be acquired by Expedia, Zhang took over Kuxun's real estate search business and started 99fang.com (九九房), his first company.
Zhang thought that Chinese smartphone users were struggling to find information in mobile apps available in 2012 and the search giant Baidu was mixing search results with undisclosed advertising. His vision was to push relevant content to users using recommendations generated by artificial intelligence. This vision, however, was not shared by most venture capitalists, and he failed to secure funding until Susquehanna International Group agreed to invest in the startup. In August 2012, ByteDance launched the Toutiao news app and within two years attracted more than 13 million daily users. Sequoia Capital, which rejected Zhang the first time, came around and led a US$100 million investment in the company in 2014.
In September 2016, ByteDance launched its video sharing app TikTok (known as Douyin in China) with little fanfare. The product was an instant hit with millennials and became popular worldwide. ByteDance bought Musical.ly a year later for US$800 million and integrated it into TikTok.
As of late 2018, with more than 1 billion monthly users across its mobile apps, ByteDance is valued at US$75 billion, surpassing Uber to become the most valuable startup in the world. Zhang's personal wealth is estimated at $13 billion, making him the 9th richest person in China.
Honours and recognition
- Feng, Venus (2019-03-23). "World's Most Valuable Startup Is Home to a Complex Fortune". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
- "深扒张一鸣2285条微博 挖出今日头条崛起的秘密". Sohu. 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
- Gao Yang 高阳 (2006-09-03). "解码酷讯创业帮：张一鸣这些80后老板们的"黄埔军校"". The Economic Observer. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
- Chen, Lulu Yilun (2018-10-01). "The unknown 35-year-old behind the world's most valuable startup". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
- "Zhang Yiming". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- "Zhang Yiming". Fortune. 2018-07-19. Retrieved 2019-04-09.