Back in 2012, when Zhang Yiming pitched the idea of creating an AI-powered news aggregation app, investors such as Sequoia Capital were skeptical. The initial thought that worried those investors was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer can outsmart tech behemoths.
However, Zhang, now 35 has proved all of them wrong. Today, his company Bytedance Ltd. is all set to be evaluated at a whopping $75 billion. This figure indicates that the China-based firm will be surpassing Uber Technologies. to become the world’s most valuable startup. Bytedance’s claims are espoused by a long line of investors such as Softbank Group Corp., which as per reports is planning to invest $1.5 billion approximately. Asides, KKR & Co., General Atlantic, and even Sequoia capital are willing to back Bytedance.
Bytedance’s internet experience, which is a cross between Facebook and Google, has attracted such huge investments. “The most important thing is that we are not a news business. We are more like a search business or a social media platform,” Zhang said in a 2017 interview, adding that he employs no editors or reporters. “We are doing very innovative work. We are not a copycat of a U.S. company, both in product and technology.”
What is even more remarkable about Zhang’s achievement is that he was able to pull it off without the help of Chinese internet giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent. In fact, Zhang has always been at loggerhead with the two firms, in court or elsewhere. Zhang’s inspirational story supports the statement that he indeed is “One man Army”.