As China’s crackdown on Big Tech and social media companies continue, the country’s next goal is to regulate algorithms and minimize screen time on platforms such as Tencent and ByteDance, China’s two biggest social media companies. In response, the companies have already taken steps to appease the Chinese government.
ByteDance’s founder Zhang Yiming stepped down as Chairman in November last year, then as CEO six months later. The company had also decided to postpone its IPO indefinitely after regulators raised data security risks.
Despite the strict regulations, Bytedance is still considered the most valuable startup in the world, with a valuation of over $350 billion as of December 2021. Its popular video streaming app TikTok has more than one billion active users each month, and its other products such as the centralized news platform Toutiao have more than 200 million monthly active users.
The Org looks into the executive team of ByteDance to learn about the leaders navigating strict regulations whilst remaining one of the most profitable companies in the world.
The big boss
After Zhang Yiming stepped down as Chairman and CEO of ByteDance, 39-year-old Liang Rubo, Zhang’s co-founder and more technical counterpart, stepped into the top position.
Yiming and Rubo were college roommates at Nankai University for four years. After graduating and working separately for a few years, they partnered up and built property listing platform 99fang.com, a company that later became one of China’s most-downloaded real estate listings applications.
In 2012, following the success of 99fang.com, Yiming, Rubo and a team of ten others began working on Jinri Toutiao. They wanted to use a smart algorithm to cater personalized news to readers. This algorithm later became the fundamental building block of ByteDance’s other applications, including DouYin and Tik Tok.
Throughout his time at ByteDance, Rubo had overseen many different projects and departments. On top of being a product developer, he oversaw legal, internal communications, logistics and HR in all different aspects of the company, and has been a vital part of its success.
The key executives
Another key player at ByteDance is former journalist and newspaper advertising expert Zhang Lidong. Lidong currently serves as the Chairman of the Chinese chapter of ByteDance and oversees all non-product operations such as strategy, commercialization and partnerships. Lidong joined ByteDance in 2013 before the company was generating revenue. He played a pivotal role in monetization through advertising for ByteDance.
Reporting to Lidong is the CEO of ByteDance China, Kelly Zhang. Kelly joined ByteDance in 2014 after the acquisition of her photo-sharing application, Tuba, which attracted almost 500,000 users within the first six months of its launch. Kelly is a fine arts graduate who has previously worked in product planning and design at a handful of tech companies in Beijing, including Digital Red and Qianchi Unlimited.
ByteDance would not have been the internationally well-known company today without its $1 billion acquisition of short-video app Musical.ly, founded by Alex Zhu and Louis Yang in November 2017. Alex Zhu is currently ByteDance’s VP of Product and Strategy after having served as the President of Tik Tok for over two years. He has previous experience at SAP, where he was a user experience architect.
If you would like to know more about ByteDance’s executive team, you can visit its public org chart at The Org, here.