3 Lessons from top billionaires in China

Whilst most are familiar with the names of top billionaires in China like Jack Ma Yun of Alibaba, these three billionaires are lesser known. This week, Eliga Services celebrates lessons from the country’s most entrepreneurial minds to mark the Chinese New Year. 


China has the second-highest number of billionaires

Undoubtedly, China is a leader when it comes to visionary entrepreneurs. According to Forbes, China is home to 626 billionaires (an incredible increase when compared to the previous year’s number of 388). China is second only to the US, which was home to 724 billionaires in 2021. The country made a fast recovery from the pandemic, which resulted in 205 new names on the list. It’s worth noting, Forbes’ list does not include Hong Kong and Macao, which it lists separately. Not only have China’s billionaires recovered, but some have nearly doubled their fortune.


Chinese billionaires who’ve made the news

According to Forbes, Alibaba’s co-founder Jack Ma Yun ‘has been lying low’ after the dual listing of his FinTech giant, Ant Group, was halted by Chinese regulators in November. Chinese regulators launched an anti-monopoly investigation, which resulted in a $2.8 billion fine.

He weathered his fair share of setbacks, including the dot-com bubble when Alibaba expanded too fast and was forced to make layoffs. In 2002, the company only had enough cash to survive for 18 months. He calls it Alibaba’s 1,001 mistakes. The company went on to develop a product for China exporters to meet U.S. buyers online. This innovative model saved Alibaba.

Perhaps, you’ve heard of Zhang Yiming, the entrepreneur who launched TikTok in 2012 from his bedroom. The software engineer founded the app’s parent company ByteDance. The social media billionaire is responsible for a new generation of social media stars.

From e-commerce to social media, China is a leader in tech, inspiring future innovation. Here are three lessons from Chinese billionaires, who don’t always make the news headlines due to their love of privacy:


1. Zhong Shanshan

Shanshan enjoyed an increase of $66.9 billion from taking Nongfu Spring, a bottled water firm, public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. His net worth is a staggering $68.9 billion.

According to Business Insider, he became Asia’s richest man in 2021. He’s often referred to as the ‘Lone Wolf.’ He earned this name because very little is known about this entrepreneur’s personal life. He rarely speaks in public or the media, adding to his mysterious aura. What is known is that Zhong dropped out of school at the age of 12, working various jobs. He founded the company in the mid-1990s. The billionaire currently owns 84% of the firm.


Believe the hype…

There’s a popular saying, ‘Don’t believe the hype.’ In the case of Shanshan, his extensive experience shows that it’s worth buying into trends to deliver timely products. According to the Financial Times, Shanshan’s ‘Improbable career’ spans everything from mushroom farming to beverages. It’s clear that this billionaire intrinsically understands the value of the hype.


2. Ma Huateng

Ma Huateng is an investor, founder, Chairman and CEO of Tenscent which claims the title of China’s most valuable company. Huateng means horse in Chinese. When translated from Mandarin to English, it means pony. The entrepreneur is often referred to as ‘Pony Ma.’

Whilst you may have never heard of Tencent, you’ve most likely heard of the conglomerate’s companies it owns stakes in which include Tesla and Spotify. The web-media giant is worth $65.8 billion. Tencent also owns WeChat, the Chinese messaging and social media app. Huateng allegedly met his wife through his own chat service. He chatted to his future wife using the service for many months. Video game fans will probably already know that Tencent is one of the largest publishers, holding a stake in Fortnite and other household names.


Personalisation is key

Huateng is a big believer in personalisation. When thinking of users, he explains, ‘Think of yourself as an insensitive, nit-picking, irritable fool to use the product.’ Whilst every user appreciates a personalised journey, the experience must also be intuitive and seamless.


3. Colin Huang

With a net worth of $55.4 billion, this entrepreneur made his fortune with e-commerce. The serial entrepreneur also founded the online game company, Xinyoudi and the e-commerce platform Ouku.com. He started his career at Google in the US in 2004 as a software engineer and project manager, before relocating to China in 2006 to help set up Google China.

Whilst you may not have heard of Pinduoduo, this online discounter claimed the title of China’s most popular e-commerce company in 2020. It surpassed Alibaba in just five years since its launch. With over 788.4 million users, it has a market cap of more than $100 billion. This gives it a higher valuation than Uber or Sony.

Nonetheless, Alibaba’s annual revenue of $72 billion is nearly 8 times Pinduoduo’s revenue of £9.1 billion. Huang made headlines when he stepped down as the company’s chairman in March. He gave up his CEO role in July 2021.


Enjoy the journey

Ambitious and forward-thinking entrepreneurs often don’t recognise how lucky they are. Huang didn’t realise how fortunate he was at Google, until three or four years later. Upon reflection, he ‘started to realise how rare it was to come across and join a company like Google at the time.’ According to Business Insider, he described it as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ which he failed to see how extremely lucky he was during this period. This teaches us that wherever you are in life, it’s important to enjoy the moment.


China’s top billionaires are redistributing wealth

According to NBC News, Tencent Holdings Ltd. is giving back to the people of China. The company pledged $15 billion for a number of initiatives. These projects cover everything from the environment to education. Additionally, rural reform and technological assistance for China’s senior citizens are an important focus. The company allocated the funds in response to China’s wealth redistribution campaign, which seeks to address the inequality between the country’s richest and poorest. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. also pledged a similar amount.


Got a game-changing idea?

If you’re inspired by these entrepreneurs and would like to explore innovation or how we can support entrepreneurial businesses, then please do get in touch. Eliga Services has the knowledge, product, team and experience to transform your ideas.