Zhang Yiming

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Zhang Yiming
Born (1983-04-01) 1 April 1983 (age 37)
Longyan, Fujian, China
Alma materNankai University (2001-2005)
Years active2006–present
Known forFounding and leading ByteDance, creating Douyin/TikTok
Net worthIncreaseUS$ 25 Billion (February 2021)[1]
TitleFounder, Chairman and CEO of ByteDance
Zhang Yiming
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese

Zhang Yiming (Chinese: 张一鸣; born 1 April 1983 in Longyan, Fujian) is a Chinese billionaire internet entrepreneur. He founded ByteDance in 2012 and developed the news aggregator Toutiao and the video sharing platform TikTok (Douyin/抖音), formerly known as Musical.ly. 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 $22.6 billion, making him the ninth richest person in China.[2][3]

Early life and career[edit]

Zhang was born on 1 April 1983.[4] In 2001, he enrolled at Nankai University in Tianjin, where he majored in microelectronics before changing to software engineering, and graduated in 2005. He met his wife at university.[citation needed]

In February 2006, Zhang became the fifth employee and the first engineer at the travel website Kuxun (酷讯), and he was promoted to technical director a year later.[citation needed]

In 2008, Zhang left Kuxun to work for Microsoft, but he felt stifled by the corporate rules of the company. He soon left Microsoft to join the startup Fanfou (饭否), which eventually failed.[5] 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.[5]


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.[6] 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.[6]

Zhang focused on expanding ByteDance globally, as opposed to other Chinese tech CEOs who focused on the domestic growth of their companies.[7] Zhang insisted that ByteDance's workplace productivity app Lark be targeted at the American, European and Japanese markets, rather than limiting the focus to China as originally proposed.[8] Zhang's management style with ByteDance was modeled on US tech companies such as Google and included bi-monthly town hall meetings and discouraging employees from referring to him as "boss" or "CEO," as is the Chinese convention.[8]

In September 2015, 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.[6]

ByteDance's first app, Neihan Duanzi, was shut down in 2018 by the National Radio and Television Administration. In response, Zhang issued an apology stating that the app was "incommensurate with socialist core values", that it had a "weak" implementation of Xi Jinping Thought, and promised that ByteDance would "further deepen cooperation" with the ruling Chinese Communist Party to better promote its policies.[9][10][11]

As of late 2018, with more than 1 billion monthly users across its mobile apps,[4] ByteDance is valued at US$75 billion, surpassing Uber to become the most valuable startup in the world.[6] Zhang's personal wealth is estimated at $22.6 billion, making him the 9th richest person in China.[4]

In September 2020, the United States Department of Justice referred to Zhang as a "mouthpiece" of the Chinese Communist Party in a legal filing.[12]

Honours and recognition[edit]

Zhang was named in the 2013 China 30 Under 30 list by Forbes.[13] In 2018, he was included in Fortune magazine's 40 Under 40 list.[14] Zhang was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2019.[15]


  1. ^ - Bloomberg.com
  2. ^ Tognini, Giacomo. "Meet Zhang Yiming, The Chinese Billionaire Behind TikTok". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2020-03-14. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  3. ^ "The 28 youngest billionaires in tech, from Stripe's founders to the owner of TikTok". Business Insider. March 14, 2020. Archived from the original on March 15, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Feng, Venus (2019-03-23). "World's Most Valuable Startup Is Home to a Complex Fortune". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  5. ^ a b 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. Archived from the original on 2019-05-03. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  6. ^ a b c d Chen, Lulu Yilun (2018-10-01). "The unknown 35-year-old behind the world's most valuable startup". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 2019-09-29. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  7. ^ Yang, Yingzhi; Tian, Yew Lun; Zhu, Julie (2020-09-05). "TikTok troubles narrow gap between Beijing and ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming". Reuters. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  8. ^ a b Yang, Yingshi; Zhu, Julie (2020-03-13). "Zhang Yiming, founder of TikTok owner ByteDance, gears up for the global stage". Reuters. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  9. ^ Spence, Philip (January 16, 2019). "ByteDance Can't Outrun Beijing's Shadow". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  10. ^ Bandurski, David (April 11, 2018). "Tech Shame in the "New Era"". China Media Project. Archived from the original on April 12, 2018. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Romm, Tony; Harwell, Drew (December 5, 2019). "TikTok leader schedules Washington trip to meet with lawmakers as investigations loom". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Allyn, Bobby (September 26, 2020). "New DOJ Filing: TikTok's Owner Is 'A Mouthpiece' Of Chinese Communist Party". NPR. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  13. ^ "Zhang Yiming". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2019-05-31. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  14. ^ "Zhang Yiming". Fortune. 2018-07-19. Archived from the original on 2019-03-22. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  15. ^ "Zhang Yiming: The 100 Most Influential People of 2019". TIME. Retrieved 2020-09-22.