Pony Ma, the tycoon behind China's social media and gaming giant Tencent
Ma Huateng, or Pony Ma, founded Tencent in 1998 at age 27. The social and entertainment giant is behind the hugely popular multi-purpose app WeChat, hit game Honor of Kings, and some of China’s top music apps.
Ma Huateng, nicknamed Pony because his last name translates into English as “horse”, is the multibillionaire behind tech giant Tencent. In contrast with outspoken rival Jack Ma (no relation) of Alibaba, Pony Ma seems intent on avoiding the limelight. Little is known about his personal life, despite his status as one of China’s richest people.
Tencent’s killer product is the all-in-one messenger WeChat: An app that somehow combines WhatsApp, Facebook, Venmo, Tinder, Spotify, Amazon and much more in one unique blend. It has around a billion users, with the vast majority of them being in China.
Ma was born in 1971 in Shantou, to the east of Shenzhen in Guangdong province. Less than a decade later, the city was designated as a special economic zone by Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping. Designed to spur foreign investment in China, it gave the residents of a once-sleepy fishing village a rare window into the rest of the world.
In 2010, searching for a new messaging service for smartphones, Ma assigned two competing teams to work on a solution. The winners came up with what is now WeChat. The app launched at the start of 2011 and reached 100 million users the next year, quickly overshadowing its predecessor QQ. (QQ still exists today, targeting a younger audience.)
A CAREFUL DANCE
Tencent is also quick to address any government concerns over its products. When a state-run newspaper commentary branded Tencent’s hit game Honor of Kings as “poison” and “drugs” for youngsters, the company immediately limited game time for teenagers to two hours and banned children from logging in after 9pm.