Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, is one of the richest people on the planet. He is behind the Shenzhen, China-based internet and entertainment giant Tencent, best known for WeChat messaging app and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). But to many, especially in India, the common people still don’t seem to have much of a background of who Ma is. That being said, here are some lesser-known facts about the billionaire CEO of Tencent – the equivalent of Facebook or Google in China.
# Ma Huateng’s nickname is Pony Ma. Pony’s surname Ma is the Chinese word for horse: hence his nickname. In fact, Tencent’s Chinese name, teng xin, is also horse-based.
#Ma Huateng was born in 1971, in Dongfang, Hainan, China. He is said to have a modest background as his father was a port manager, in Shenzhen. In 1989, Ma enrolled at Shenzhen University to study software engineering. Ma is a long-time National People’s Congress (NPC) delegate.
#After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Shenzhen University, Ma started his career as a programmer with China Motion Telecom Development, a company known for developing software for pagers. He reportedly used to earn $176 (Rs 12,891) per month. After leaving CMMobile, Ma landed a job at Shenzhen Runxun Communications. He worked there in the research and development department for Internet calling services.
#In 1998, aged 27, Ma along with four of his classmates, co-founded Tencent. The company’s first product was the Internet instant messaging service software QICQ or Open ICQ. Even though QICQ was a rip off of Israeli instant messaging ICQ, the service became extremely popular in China within months of launch. At one point in time, QICQ had 350 million users in China. Tencent later changed the name of the service to QQ after AOL (American Online} filed a lawsuit for violating QICQ’s domain names.
#The big moment came in Ma’s life when he launched WeChat in 2011. WeChat is China’s most popular messaging service, just behind Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger. Many say it’s impossible to communicate in China without WeChat. The app, which has over a billion users, can be used for payments, booking cabs, shopping and even playing games.
#Ma, 48, is China’s richest man with a net worth of over $52 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He holds a 9.7 per cent ownership of Tencent. Not many know that Prosus, a subsidiary of South African consumer internet conglomerate Naspers, owns 31 per cent of Tencent. The stake is currently worth over $120 billion.
#Ma’s Tencent is also the largest video games publisher in the world. His company owns 100 per cent stake in Riot Games, which is best known for the popular game League of Legends. Tencent also owns a 40 per cent stake in Fortnite studio, Epic Games, and has a stake in Bluehole, the developer behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). It also poured in $8.6 billion to acquire 84.3 per cent stake in Helsinki-based Supercell, the studio behind Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. The Chinese tech company also has minority stakes in Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard. About 60 per cent of Tencent’s $19.13 billion in gaming revenue last year came from mobile games.
#In 2011, Ma’s Tencent became the ﬁrst Chinese company to pass the US$500 billion stock market valuation mark, overtaking Facebook. Earlier this year, in July, Tencent’s market capitalization once again surpassed Facebook’s market valuation mark. Tencent’s market capitalization currently hovers over $509.7 billion.
#Over the years, Ma’s Tencent has made investments in a number of big tech companies. It has a 5 per cent stake in Tesla and a 10 per cent stake in Snap Inc. Tencent also owns 9 per cent of Spotify, while the latter company owns 9 per cent of Tencent Music.
#Ma is known for keeping a low profile in the media. His classmates described him “shy” and “geek” while growing up. Ma’s idol is the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.
#When Ma was young, he wanted to be an astronomer. While Ma ultimately decided to be a computer engineer, his interest in space exploration hasn’t faded away. In 2016, Tencent invested in three start-ups Moon Express, Satellogic and Planetary Resources which are involved in space exploration.
#Ma met his wife through the QQ messaging service, which was developed by Tencent. Ma’s daughter Ma Manlin is reportedly dating the son of Dalian Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin, who is the founder of China’s largest real estate development company.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines