So ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, hired Disney veteran Kevin Mayer as COO and Global CEO for TikTok.  There has been numerous reports about TikTok as well as Mayer’s profile, so we will not repeat here.

But we thought the appointment is actually quite significant. Many Chinese companies have global ambitions, but TikTok, or ByteDance, is quite different this time, in the following ways:

  1. It hired an actual executive with strong execution experience in a reputable company in the relevant field – other Chinese tech companies previously focused on hiring foreign bankers and consultants;
  2. As a company, ByteDance is relatively young compared to the likes of Baidu, Alibaba & Tencent. As a result, there is less baggage in organisational structure or existing internal interests;
  3. Yiming Zhang, founder of ByteDance, is still in his mid-30s and has actually cast his company as a global company since early on (many other established tech firms from China would only think about international markets years after securing the market in CHina);
  4. He actually spent time outside China, so the understanding about global markets is quite different compared to the others – this helps with allocating resources as well as building trust between Chinese & foreign top executives in the company;

Key success factors for Chinese companies going international

Of course, at the end of the day, whether TikTok, or ByteDance, would be winning in global markets depends on a few factors: product (which thus far is proven), organisational structure (mentioned above – currently looking optimistic), and people (they just hired someone who is plausible in bringing this to a success).

In addition to this, the leadership – in terms of understanding and commitment – would be vital to ensure such success. Lu Qi’s experience with Baidu was an example of what might possibly go wrong.

Nonetheless, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that ByteDance has a good chance of becoming a serious rival of Facebook or even more. The Koreans are probably right trying very hard to buy their secondaries.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.