Zhang Yiming, co-founder of ByteDance, will step down as CEO of the company at the end of 2021. He will be succeeded by another of the founders of TikTok’s creator, Liang Rubo.
An open letter served to explain the decision. Yiming will focus on “long-term strategy, corporate culture and social responsibility” as a member of the Board of Directors. The transition will have the two working together over the next few months.
“Innovation and success are rooted in years of exploration and imagination of what is possible,” Yiming noted in the letter. “However, few people have a real vision of the future, preferring to model on current and past achievements.”
Zhang Yiming’s achievements as CEO of ByteDance, creator of TikTok
Born in Longyan, Fujian, China in 1982, Zhang majored in Microelectronics before moving on to Software Engineering. He founded ByteDance in 2012 and developed the news aggregator Toutiao, in addition to his most recognized work, TikTok, a short video platform.
ByteDance is valued at $250 billion, and Zhang is the ninth richest person in China, with $36 billion to his credit.
But it’s not all roses on the road for Zhang’s company. It comes from a busy 2020, in which accusations by then U.S. President Donald Trump of handing over data to Chinese authorities devolved into sanctions. They haven’t made friends in China either. The Wall Street Journal described the authorities’ pressure on the company led by Zhang.
“In recent months, the company has been called in by authorities every few months. In April, ByteDance was one of 34 of China’s largest tech companies to make public pledges to comply with the country’s antitrust laws, shortly after e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. was hit with a record $2.8 billion in antitrust fines.”
Added the U.S. newspaper, “The antitrust regulator fined ByteDance’s subsidiary the equivalent of about $78,000 for failing to properly report an earlier merger.”
While TikTok was being punished in the United States, several platforms, such as YouTube, took advantage of the Chinese app’s success. Short videos are now a widely used tool among other social networks.
Zhang’s farewell as CEO
On his farewell to the top position ByteDance, Zhang argued his “lack of soft skills.” “The truth is that I lack some of the skills needed in an ideal manager. I am not very social, preferring solitary activities such as being online, listening to music, and daydreaming about what can come true.”
“I concluded that transitioning out of the CEO role, with all the related day-to-day responsibilities, would allow me to have a greater impact on long-term initiatives,” the entrepreneur considered.
“With our business growing well, it’s time to think about how we can, not simply scale, but make innovative, meaningful, long-term progress toward our mission of ‘inspiring creativity, enriching lives,'” he added.
Liang was head of Human Resources at ByteDance, and worked with software from its origins, helping to develop the corporate communication and collaboration platform Lark since 2016.
Read the full letter from Zhang Yiming discussing his resignation as CEO of ByteDance at this link.