Everyone knows who founded Facebook Mark Zuckerbeg) and most people can name the CEO of Tesla Motors. But can you name the CEO of TikTok? By this point, everyone has heard of the short-form video app that has taken the world by storm. With an estimated 1 billion active users worldwide, it’s rapidly eclipsing other social media platforms in terms of popularity. But who is responsible for this runaway success? Who are the minds and personalities behind the app that’s been downloaded over 3 billion times worldwide? The TikTok leadership team might not be household names yet, but they’re well on their way to becoming some of the most powerful people in tech. Let’s take a closer look at the team that’s helping TikTok become the fastest-growing social network on the planet.
Who Founded TikTok?
TikTok is the product of its parent company ByteDance, which was founded by a man named Zhang Yiming. Born in 1983 in China’s Fujian province, tech entrepreneur Yiming began his career as a software engineer for travel website Kuxun in 2006. After jumping from Kuxun to Microsoft and back to Kuxun, Yiming started getting the itch to venture on his own. He was dissatisfied with the Chinese search engine Baidu, which was starting to mix genuine search results with undisclosed advertisements. He wanted to create an alternative solution, driven by artificial intelligence. In 2012, he founded ByteDance, a company that would become the incubator for numerous successful tech ventures, including TikTok.
“It wasn’t long before ByteDance was attracting attention from one of the world’s biggest tech venture capitalist firms — Sequoia Capital. After securing a US$100 million investment, ByteDance began to rapidly expand. In 2016, the company bought a social media app called Musical.ly for US$1 billion. The app, which was popular with the emerging Generation Z, would form the basis for TikTok.”
The company struggled at first, but Yiming’s big break came in 2014 when he launched a news aggregator called Toutiao. The app quickly gained traction with Chinese users, thanks to its personalised recommendations and algorithmically-generated newsfeed. It wasn’t long before ByteDance was attracting attention from one of the world’s biggest tech venture capitalist firms — Sequoia Capital. After securing a US$100 million investment, ByteDance began to rapidly expand. In 2016, the company bought a social media app called Musical.ly for US$1 billion. The app, which was popular with the emerging Generation Z, would form the basis for TikTok.
What is the net worth of Zhang Yiming?
If you’re the founder of the world’s fastest-growing social network, you’re probably worth a lot, right? Right! Thanks to a series of excellent business decisions and the strategic purchase of Musical.ly, Yiming is now worth over US$49.5 billion. This makes him the 27th richest person in the world, and one of the richest men in China. For perspective, if he spent US$1 million every day, it’d take him 49,000 days or over 134 years to spend all his wealth. That’s nearly double the average human lifespan.
In short, Yiming is an incredibly wealthy individual. However, he stepped down as CEO of Bytedance last year, stating that he lacked the skills “that make an ideal manager”.
Who is the CEO of TikTok?
The CEO of TikTok is a man named Shou Zi Chew. A Singaporean national, Chew joined the TikTok leadership team in 2021. This was after the sudden departure of its former CEO Kevin Mayer. Despite only taking the role three months prior, Mayer faced pressure to resign after the Trump administration attempted to place a ban on the app due to its ties to China. Chew stepped into his place, taking the helm of one of the most popular apps in the world.
A Harvard business school graduate, Chew was always destined for a lucrative career. Prior to joining the TikTok leadership team, he was CFO of Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi, from 2015 until 2020. The following year he took over the role of CFO for TikTok’s parent company Bytedance. A mere five weeks later he was offered the role of CEO of TikTok. Unsurprisingly, he accepted.
Chew had been credited with helping to bring Xiaomi to a global market, leading it towards its IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2018. Under his leadership, TikTok has also seen incredible growth and has yet to reach its peak. Chew currently lives in Beijing with his wife Vivian Kao and two kids.
Who is the VP of TikTok?
Michael Beckerman is VP and Head of Public Policy, Americas at TikTok. He’s based in Washington, D.C., and focuses on developing TikTok’s relationships with policymakers and other key stakeholders in America. Prior to joining TikTok, Beckerman was President and CEO of the Internet Association. This is a trade association representing the leading global companies invested in the open Internet, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Before that, he served as the deputy staff director and chief policy advisor to the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He is a graduate of George Washington University.
Who is the COO of TikTok?
Vanessa Pappas is the Chief Operating Officer of TikTok. Joining Bytedance as a strategic advisor in 2018, Pappas built her career working for another social media giant — YouTube. She spent seven years at the company, eventually becoming the Global Head of Creative Insight. In this role, she oversaw all aspects of creative strategy, research, and analysis for YouTube’s original content. In other words, she was responsible for making sure that the videos people watched on YouTube were engaging and entertaining.
“We work to earn and maintain trust through ongoing transparency into the actions we take to safeguard our platform because we know that just saying “trust us” is not enough.” – Vanessa Pappas, COO of TikTok
When she joined TikTok, Pappas was tasked with overseeing and managing content development, marketing, and product development. She is there to ensure that TikTok remains a fun and safe place for people to share their creativity with the world. In a TikTok newsroom post last month, Pappas wrote about TikTok’s continued commitment to transparency and accountability. “We work to earn and maintain trust through ongoing transparency into the actions we take to safeguard our platform because we know that just saying “trust us” is not enough.”
Her words show that TikTok is aware of the challenges it faces in terms of public trust. Moreover, it shows they are working hard to overcome them. She is spearheading the charge to make TikTok a platform that can be safely enjoyed. Meanwhile the platform’s team continues “to serve everyone who creates, connects, and is entertained on TikTok.”
Who is the President of TikTok?
Blake Chandlee is the President (Global Business Solutions) of TikTok. Chandlee has over two decades of experience in leadership roles at some of the world’s biggest tech companies. He was formerly the Vice President of Global Partnerships at Facebook. There, he oversaw relationships with some of the largest brands in the world. He has also held a leadership role at Yahoo as far back as 2003, which makes him a tech leadership veteran.
In his current role at TikTok, Chandlee is responsible for the company’s partnerships with brands, creators, and agencies. Under his guidance, TikTok has introduced a way to buy products directly from brands, without leaving the video-sharing platform. TikTok Shop is an in-built marketplace that makes it easier for small e-commerce sellers to reach a wider audience.
Is TikTok still owned by China?
ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is headquartered in Beijing. However, TikTok itself has offices in a number of other countries, including the US, UK, Ireland, and Singapore. Despite ByteDance’s global reach, it is still technically a Chinese company. This has caused some concern, particularly in the United States. Their fear is that TikTok could be used to collect data on American citizens and potentially facilitate espionage.
These fears were further heightened when, in 2020, the Trump administration ordered a ban on TikTok, citing national security concerns. The ban itself was eventually blocked by a U.S. court. However, the incident served to underscore the fact that TikTok is still technically a Chinese company.
Just recently though, the TikTok newsroom announced they would be routing all US-generated user data to Oracle-owned American servers. This move is seen as an attempt to assuage some of the fears about the company’s ties to China. It comes after a Buzzfeed News report revealed that China-based employees were directly accessing the information of US-based users. “For more than a year, we’ve been working with Oracle on several measures as part of our commercial relationship to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of US user data,” wrote Albert Calamug, the head of TikTok’s US Security and Public Policy. “Today, 100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”
What Lies in the Future for the TikTok Leadership Team?
The TikTok leadership team has successfully navigated some choppy waters in recent times. They seem to have found a way to placate some of the fears about the company’s ties to China. After a C-suite shakeup in 2021, the team looks to have found its footing. The company is moving forward with a clear vision for the future.
A strong focus on safety, security, and transparency will take the company to new heights in the coming years. TikTok some of the most experienced leaders in the tech industry. The platform’s continued growth in popularity means we’ll see even more innovative products and features coming out in the future. Only time will tell what the next big thing from TikTok will be. But one thing is for sure — the TikTok leadership team is up for the challenge.
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House of Marketers (HOM) is a leading TikTok Marketing Agency. Our global agency was built by early TikTok Employees & TikTok Partners, which gives us the insider knowledge to help leading brands, like Redbull, Playtika, Badoo, and HelloFresh win on TikTok. Want us to convert more of Gen Z and Millennials with TikTok? Get in touch with our friendly team, here.