Unlike most of its peripatetic predecessors, though, ByteDance has built its empire by making products that appeal beyond China. It is China’s first global software giant. It has also courted foreign investors.
Filings in Hong Kong show that it has used an arrangement called the “Sina structure”, which allows it to accept money from abroad, since its founding (many Chinese tech firms turn to this structure only when eyeing a stockmarket listing in America). Around 80% of ByteDance’s investors are non-Chinese. So are four of its five board members. The other is Mr Zhang.
All this helps ensure ByteDance is not, in contrast to many Chinese tech upstarts, in hock to Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent— which is handy, for Bytedance competes with China’s tech titans for ad revenue. It makes most of its money selling ads in its two main Chinese apps: Douyin, a Chinese TikTok, and Toutiao, a multimedia-and-news app akin to Facebook’s newsfeed (its WeChat rival, Duoshan, disappointed).
How much money it makes, exactly, is unclear: as a private company Bytedance does not publish its accounts. But leaks and statements from investors put last year’s revenue at between 104bn yuan and 140bn yuan ($15bn-20bn), more than Uber, Snapchat and Twitter combined.
广东快乐十分Its ad revenues in China surpassed Tencent’s and Baidu’s and now trail only those of Alibaba. It reportedly turned a profit in June 2019, a feat in the world of loss-making unicorns. If the firm generates $25bn in sales this year, as it is expected to despite covid-19, it will have done so three years faster than Facebook.
It is the only big Chinese firm whose share of the domestic advertising market is growing fast, from 9% to 17% in 2019, according to Bernstein, a research firm. A recently launched advertising network, Pangle, which lets advertisers reach consumers across any of its non-Chinese apps, may at last help it monetise TikTok.