Why did Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang step down? Get to know the billionaire behind the Chinese e-commerce giant that just overtook Alibaba
Huang Zheng, or Colin Huang, founder of China’s e-commerce success story Pinduoduo, stepped down as chairman last month almost six years after the company’s establishment.
He has been an inspiration to many during his short time as leader, especially since debuting the company with an impressive Nasdaq IPO in 2018. Pinduoduo recently even overtook Alibaba to claim the greatest number of annual customers in China, with some 788 million buyers last year, according to company figures released in March (although Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, still enjoys far greater profits, recording an annual revenue of US$72 billion last year compared Pinduoduo’s US$9 million, according to TechWire).
So who is Huang Zheng and how did he succeed?
He was born in Hangzhou and dreamt of being a scientist
Huang was born in 1980 on the outskirts of Hangzhou to factory worker parents. According to Tencent’s new website, he dreamt of becoming a scientist as a child. Business Insider reported that, in a post on his now-defunct blog, he said he later attended Hangzhou Foreign Language School on his teacher’s recommendation. He then got his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Zhejiang University, where he was selected as a fellow at the Melton Foundation, an international non-profit, in his first year. Huang headed to the US, attending University of Wisconsin-Madison for his master’s in the same subject.
He worked at Microsoft and Google
Huang did an internship in Microsoft where he received his first salary, Business Insider reported. Later, as a fresh university graduate in 2004, he was offered a software engineer position at Google when the company was still an unknown tech start-up.
Pinduoduo is not his first venture
After three years at Google, Huang resigned and started his first e-commerce site, Ouku, which he sold for US$2.2 million in 2010. He then founded Leqi, a website that helps foreign brands to market themselves on Chinese e-commerce platforms, before starting Xunmeng, a gaming studio.
He has met Warren Buffett
He found another path in e-commerce
In spite of the e-commerce industry being dominated by Alibaba and JD.com at the time, Huang established Pinduoduo in 2015. The platform offers group buying deals between farmers and buyers, and became the fastest-growing internet company in the world. Just three years after its establishment, Pinduoduo went public on Nasdaq with a US$1.6 billion IPO, the second-largest amount for a Chinese company that year, according to Reuters.
In a statement, Pinduoduo said that Huang stepped down as chairman to make way for “a new generation of leaders”. He also donated US$100 million to his alma mater, Zhejiang University, to support research in biomedical science, agriculture and food.
- With a net worth of US$46.8 billion, Huang Zheng is the third-richest man in China behind Zhong Shanshan and Pony Ma
- He started at Microsoft and Google, once lunched with Warren Buffett thanks to his mentor winning a bid, and founded three start-ups including a gaming studio