Meet Pony Ma, the billionaire tech CEO who is neck-and-neck with Jack Ma to be China’s richest man

tencent alibaba pony ma jack ma

  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been competing with one man
    to be the richest person in China for at least two years
    now.
  • That man is Pony Ma, who is the founder and CEO of the
    tech conglomerate Tencent.
  • Tencent operates the popular messaging app WeChat,
    which has more than 1 billion active users and whose vision
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to
    follow.
  • Learn more about Pony Ma in the slides
    below.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is arguably the most well-known tech
billionaire in China, having grabbed headlines with his
eccentric dance performances
and
presided over bizarre mass weddings for employees
.

But there’s another face in Chinese tech that we should be
looking out for: Ma Huateng, also known by his nickname Pony, who
has for years been jostling with Jack to become the richest man in
China.

Pony Ma and Jack Ma have constantly overtaken each other as the
richest person in China on Forbes’s
static rich list
. (The two men are not related; Ma is a common
Chinese surname.)

Pony Ma is the founder and CEO of internet company Tencent,
which own the super-popular WeChat app. As of July 2019, Pony Ma
has a net worth of $32.8 billion, compared to Jack Ma’s $34.6
billion.

Scroll down to learn more about Pony Ma and his company, which
went from being a startup notorious for selling knockoffs to the
owner of the most popular app in China.

This is Ma Huateng, who also goes by the nickname Pony. The
47-year-old is the founder and CEO of Tencent, China’s largest
internet portal.

Tencent is the company behind WeChat, a multi-purpose app which
is like a mixture of WhatsApp, Google News, Uber, and Deliveroo. It
has around a billion users.

Ma is the company’s second-largest shareholder and largest
individual shareholder with 8.6% of total shares,
according to MarketScreener
. Naspers, a South African internet
conglomerate, owns 31.1%.

Ma’s English name and Tencent’s Chinese name apparently come from
puns about horses.

Pony and Tencent’s names, as well as Ma’s own surname, are all
horse references.

Although his given name is Huateng, Ma also goes by Pony — a
nickname likely chosen for its English meaning.

Pony and Tencent’s names, as well as Ma’s own surname, are all
horse references. “Ma” means horse in Chinese, while Tencent’s
Chinese name, teng xun, stands for
“an era of messaging in the speed of 10,000 horses
running.

Tencent had humble beginnings. Ma founded the company in 1998, aged
26, and its first product was a knockoff.

Tencent’s first product was an adaptation of Israeli instant
messaging ICQ for the Chinese market,
according to The Economist
.

After developing a reputation as a copycat, Ma decided to put
Tencent through some “institutional self-reflection” in 2011.

Ma held a series of ten bruising meetings behind closed doors,
where independent experts took the company to task,
according to Bloomberg
.

Tencent launched WeChat that January — and their new mindset paid
off. The app has continued to innovate, and currently has 1.1
billion monthly active users.

WeChat and its sister service in China, Weixin, recorded 1.1
billion monthly active users at the end of March 2019, according to
Tencent’s
2019 Q1 report
.

Weixin and WeChat are formally the same entity — Weixin is
for users with a Chinese telephone number, whereas WeChat is for
those with foreign numbers.

One reason why WeChat has become so popular in China is because
life is basically impossible without it. People can message their
friends, make payments, contact businesses, and even order cabs on
the app.

The photo above shows a horde of people in China trying to give
money to street musicians via a QR code, which is linked to the
recipient’s account.

It was taken by former Business Insider reporter Harrison Jacobs
during a 2018 trip to China.

Read more:
One photo shows that China is already in a cashless future

In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly hinted at
modeling his social network after WeChat.

Read more:
Facebook has a big, terrifying dream to be the communication
backbone for the Western world

Tencent has also invested in gaming and banking to keep its users
hooked on its services. Chinese users collectively spend 1.7
billion hours a day on Tencent apps, Bloomberg reported.

Tencent has a stake in WeBank,
China’s first digital-only private bank
, as well as in Chinese
and international game developers
.

Source:
Bloomberg

Its biggest game, “Honor of Kings,” was so popular that the Chinese
government called it “poison.”

In July 2017, Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily said the
game spread “negative energy,”
Forbes reported
.

The accusations came even after Tencent
announced restrictions limiting younger users to shorter game
times
— up to an hour for users under 12, and up to two hours
for users between 12 and 18 — following complaints that children
were getting addicted to the game.

This diversification seems to have paid off too. Tencent raked in
total revenues of about 312.7 billion yuan ($45.6 billion) in 2018,
with a profit of 80 billion yuan ($11.7 billion), the company said.

Source: Tencent
2018 Q4 results

Tencent’s success has launched Ma into China’s tech elite. Here’s a
photo of him and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaking to Chinese
President Xi Jinping at Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond,
Washington, September 2015.

He — alongside his competitor Jack Ma — was even honored by the
Chinese Communist Party for his “contributions to the reform and
opening up.”

The list, published by
the state-run People’s Daily newspaper
, also confirmed that
Jack Ma was
a member of the Communist Party
.

Pony Ma was named as “non-partisan.”

Pony Ma has also shown himself to be a quirky leader. In 2016, he
sent his executives trekking through the desert to demonstrate his
company’s determination.

Ma led his company’s leadership committee on a two-day hike
through the Gobi Desert for their off-site retreat last year,

according to Bloomberg
.

The trip — meant to represent the “culture of the company”
— consisted of two 26-kilometer hikes spread across two days,
Bloomberg reported.

Some members petitioned to abandon the trip and go home early,
but Ma and Tencent president Martin Lau insisted on continuing.

“The trip is representative of the culture of the company,” Lau
later said. “We are much more focused on the direction of where we
are going and the process than the share price.”

Such unusual team-building activities can also be found at Alibaba,
which hosts mass weddings for its employees every year. Jack Ma
usually officiates them, too.

Read more:
Inside Alibaba’s bizarre mass wedding for employees, which is
presided over by Jack Ma

Tencent’s employees seem to appreciate Pony Ma’s leadership, too.
Barron’s, the business magazine, named him one of the best CEOs in
2019.
Source: FS – All – Economy – News
Meet Pony Ma, the billionaire tech CEO who is neck-and-neck with Jack Ma to be China’s richest man