You may not have heard of Tencent. But about 1/7th of the world has…Tencent’s share price has surged nearly 130 percent as WeChat has approached 1 billion users. It has used its cash to buy stakes in companies the world over, including here in the U.S.: Tesla, Snapchat and Lyft now all count Tencent as an investor.
Meet the mysterious billionaire whose social media company has become more valuable than Facebook
Here’s what we know about this enigmatic figure.
HUMBLE ORIGINS Ma’s background resembles many of the other mega-billionaires now being minted in China at an accelerating clip — namely, humble. He was born in 1971 and moved three times in his youth as his father sought work, according to Bloomberg; the elder Ma ultimately landed a job as a port manager.Also like many of China’s current tech titans, Ma capitalized on the country’s then-virgin Internet sector, co-founding an instant messaging service in 1998 (he’d studied computer science in college). Ma, whose name translates as “horse” in English, named the company Tencent, a play on the Mandarin characters Teng and Xun, which together can mean “galloping message.” (It’s not clear when Ma, whose Mandarin given name is Huateng, took on the name “Pony,” but it is increasingly popular among Chinese to adopt English names).Ma took advantage of his own invention, meeting his wife through the chat service (they corresponded for three months before seeing each other in person, according to Bloomberg). Many others did too, and less than two years later it attracted $4.4 million in venture capital from one of Hong Kong’s largest telecom firms.