Meet TikTok’s Singaporean CEO, Chew Shou Zi, the Harvard graduate who even helped start Facebook

Chew Shou Zi joined TikTok parent ByteDance in March. Photo: Bloomberg
TikTok, whose massively popular video-sharing platform is used by millions across the world, got a new chief executive in May, eight months after Kevin Mayer walked out.
The logo of the social media video-sharing app TikTok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, in November 2019. Photo: AFP

So who is he?

Chew Shou Zi is 39 years old, from Singapore, and has been speculated to maybe lead TikTok’s parent company to a blockbuster IPO.

TikTok and Chew did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.

Here’s a rundown on TikTok’s head honcho.

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Chew worked for Facebook when it was still a start-up

A smartphone screen displays the logo of Facebook on a Facebook website background in Arlington, Virginia, on June 16. Photo: AFP

He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at the University College London before heading to Harvard Business School for his MBA in 2010.

While a student there, Chew worked for a start-up that “was called Facebook”, he said in a post on Harvard’s Alumni website. Facebook went public in mid-2012.

Chew met his now-wife, Vivian Kao, via email when they were both students at Harvard. They are “a couple who often finish each other’s sentences”, according to the school’s alumni page, and have two kids.

Chew was CFO of Xiaomi before joining ByteDance

Shou Zi Chew. Photo: @cienciatecnologica/Facebook
He became chief financial officer of the Chinese smartphone giant, which competes with Apple, in 2015. Chew helped secure crucial financing and led the company through its 2018 public listing, which would become one of the nation’s largest tech IPOs in history.

He became Xiaomi’s international business president in 2019 too.

Shou Zi Chew and Xiaomi’s founder and CEO, Lei Jun. Photo: Reuters

Before joining Xiaomi, Chew also worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for two years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He also worked at investment firm DST, founded by Russian IT billionaire Yuri Milner, for five years. It was during his time there in 2013 that he led a team that became early investors in ByteDance, as Business Chief Magazine and The Independent reported.

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He’s both TikTok CEO and CFO of its parent company, ByteDance

Shou Zi Chew in Hong Kong, in June 2018. Photo: AP

Chew joined ByteDance’s C-suite first in March, the first person to fill the role of chief financial officer at the media giant.

He also became CEO of TikTok in May at the same time as Vanessa Pappas was named COO. ByteDance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming said Chew “brings deep knowledge of the company and industry, having led a team that was among our earliest investors, and having worked in the technology sector for a decade”.

Chew’s predecessor, Kevin Mayer, had left Walt Disney for the position in May 2020 and quit after three months as the company faced pressure from lawmakers over security risks.

Former US president Donald Trump’s administration issued executive orders designed to force ByteDance into divesting its TikTok US operations, though nothing ever happened – President Joe Biden signed an executive order in June that threw out Trump’s proposed bans on the app.

Chew wants to buy a US$64 million home in Singapore

The Singapore street where the property is located. Photo: Business Insider
He’s “in the early stage” of buying a bungalow in Singapore’s ritzy 10th district, as The Business Times reported earlier this month. He would have to redevelop the home that sits on a 31,800 sq ft property.
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  • Chew was CFO of Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi before joining TikTok’s parent company ByteDance under the same title
  • Chew’s predecessor at the video-sharing app, Kevin Mayer, left after just three months – despite resigning from Disney for the position