ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming created a personal investment fund called Cool River Venture on May 22, according to Yicai, a Chinese publication. The news represents the first major business move Zhang has made since stepping down as CEO and chairman of the Chinese media company in May 2021. The fund will invest in technology industries, according to the South China Morning Post.
Zhang has maintained a relatively low profile since leaving the helm of ByteDance. His company, which owns TikTok, has been the subject of criticism in recent years as U.S. regulators investigate its ties to the Chinese Communist Party and seek to ban or divest TikTok.
The founder is the 25th richest person in the world, worth an estimated $45 billion, according to Forbes.
Zhang Yiming’s venture capital experience
Zhang’s experience in venture capital comes from both receiving funds and providing them. ByteDance raised a total of $9.5 billion with rounds beginning in 2012, according to Crunchbase. It secured investments from VC powerhouses like Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global and Goldman Sachs.
He also founded 99fang.com, a real estate platform, where Zhang secured an investment from SIG China for an undisclosed amount. Prior to that, Zhang worked at travel website Kuxun, which Tripadvisor later acquired; Microsoft; and Fanfou, a now-shuttered blogging service.
While Zhang doesn’t appear to have made any personal investments in the past, ByteDance made 58 investments with Zhang in charge, according to Crunchbase. It participated in investment rounds with music app Yinyu, education company Minerva Project and talent management agency Mountain Top.
What has Zhang Yiming been up to since leaving his CEO position?
The former CEO holds a new role at the company focusing on long-term strategy, corporate culture and social responsibility, according to a company statement announcing the executive shakeup. Zhang has spent much of his time outside of China, according to the Information. He had reportedly been using Singapore as a home base due to China’s Covid-19 restrictions.
Zhang donated a total of 700 million yuan ($99.1 million) to an education fund in his hometown of Longyan in China’s southwestern Fujian Province. He set up the Fangmei Education Development Fund in 2021 with an initial 500 million yuan donation and contributed the additional gift earlier this month. The name “Fangmei” reportedly comes from the names of Zhang’s two grandmothers. Zhang’s donations will support public welfare projects like vocational and art education, according to Pandaily, a Beijing-based tech publication.
Zhang also supported education while still CEO of ByteDance. He previously donated 10 million yuan to his middle school and 100 million yuan to his university, Nankai University in northeastern China, Pandaily reported.