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Zhang Yiming, CEO and founder of TikTok (ByteDance), recently announced that he is planning on leaving the company and starting fresh. Zhang’s long-time business partner and friend, Liang Rubo, will take his place as CEO.
In an employee memo, Zhang said that the change would enable him “to have greater impact on longer-term initiatives,” and added that Liang is “an invaluable partner” with “strengths in management, organization, and social engagement”.
Zhang mentioned that him leaving the company is related to the fact that he is not a social person and does not have the appropriate skills to be in charge of an innovative social media platform like TikTok.
“I’m more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people,” Zhang wrote in the memo, “Similarly, I’m not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and contemplating what may be possible.”
Zhang owns approximately 30% of ByteDance and has over 50% of voting rights. He did not mention giving up his voting rights – but, he did say that he will work closely with Liang over the next six months to ensure a smooth transition.
ByteDance has over 100,000 employees across the world and has been planning for its IPO (initial public offering) this year. For the time being, those plans have been halted.
“I think it’s possible that Zhang is concerned that after the IPO he would see a ballooning of his wealth and get a lot of attention from the media. It is hard to be a rich person in China. You don’t get as much recognition,” said Li Chengdong, Beijing-based technology analyst.
ByteDance is a multinational tech company that’s headquartered in Beijing that was founded in 2012. The company develops video-sharing social platforms, like Tik Tok and its Chinese-specific counterpart, Douyin.
Across all of its platforms, ByteDance has over 800 daily active users and was valued at $250 billion as of March 2021. In the past, ByteDance has been accused of working with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In 2020, Donald Trump’s administration attempted to ban TikTok in the USA, causing an uproar of disappointment from fans. On September 15, 2020, Trump released an executive order stating that if the company was not sold to a US buyer in 45 days, it would be banned. This created a bidding war between Microsoft and Oracle.
The ban never happened as ByteDance insisted on being treated fairly by the American Justice System.
Despite the troubles, ByteDance continued to expand its business empire in the US. TikTok blew up immensely; the platform is used mostly by Gen Zs and Millennials for creating short videos that have the potential of going viral fast.
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