Zhang Yiming

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Zhang Yiming
Born (1983-04-01) April 1, 1983 (age 38)
Longyan, Fujian, China
Alma materNankai University (2001-2005)
Years active2006–present
Known forFounding and leading ByteDance, creating Douyin/TikTok
TitleFounder, Chairman and former CEO of ByteDance
Zhang Yiming
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese

Zhang Yiming (Chinese: 张一鸣; born April 1, 1983 in Longyan, Fujian) is a Chinese 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. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index Zhang's personal wealth in 2022 was estimated at $44.5 billion.[1][2] On Nov 4, 2021, Zhang Yiming stepped down as CEO of ByteDance,[3] completing a leadership handover announced in May 2021.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Zhang was born on April 1, 1983.[5] 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.[6]

In February 2006, Zhang became the fifth employee and the first engineer at the travel website Kuxun, 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, which eventually failed.[7] In 2009, when Kuxun was about to be acquired by Expedia, Zhang took over Kuxun's real estate search business and started 99fang.com, his first company.[7]


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.[8] 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.[8]

Zhang focused on expanding ByteDance globally, as opposed to other Chinese tech CEOs who focused on the domestic growth of their companies.[9] 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.[10] 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.[10]

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.[8]

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.[11][12][13]

As of late 2018, with more than 1 billion monthly users across its mobile apps,[5] ByteDance is valued at US$75 billion, surpassing Uber to become the most valuable startup in the world.[8]

In September 2020, the United States Department of Justice referred to Zhang as a "mouthpiece" of the Chinese Communist Party in a legal filing.[14]

In May 2021, he said that he will step down as CEO and will be succeeded by Rubo Liang.[15]

Honours and recognition[edit]

Zhang was named in the 2013 China 30 Under 30 list by Forbes.[16] In 2018, he was included in Fortune magazine's 40 Under 40 list.[17] Zhang was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2019.[18]


  1. ^ "Bloomberg Billionaires Index: Zhang YiMing". Bloomberg. Retrieved March 3, 2022.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ Lin, Liza (2021-11-03). "TikTok Parent's Founder Zhang Yiming Steps Down as Chairman". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  4. ^ "ByteDance: TikTok's co-founder to step down as chief executive". BBC News. 2021-05-20.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Rogers, Taylor Nicole. "Meet Zhang Yiming, the secretive Chinese billionaire behind TikTok worth $44 billion who just stepped down as ByteDance CEO". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-05-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Allyn, Bobby (September 26, 2020). "New DOJ Filing: TikTok's Owner Is 'A Mouthpiece' Of Chinese Communist Party". NPR. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  15. ^ "ByteDance: TikTok's co-founder to step down as chief executive". BBC News. 2021-05-20. Retrieved 2021-05-20.
  16. ^ "Zhang Yiming". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2019-05-31. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  17. ^ "Zhang Yiming". Fortune. 2018-07-19. Archived from the original on 2019-03-22. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  18. ^ "Zhang Yiming: The 100 Most Influential People of 2019". TIME. Retrieved 2020-09-22.