Forbes has named a Chinese entrepreneur on its new World’s Billionaires list. Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, is the country’s richest man and is worth about US$45.3 billion.
Here are 10 lesser-known things about this self-made billionaire.
1. “Brother Pony” is Ma’s – whose last name literally means “pony” or “horse” in Chinese – genial moniker in China. He is a first-generation Shenzhen migrant who earned his Bachelor’s degree in computer science from Shenzhen University. He is also a National People’s Congress (NPC) delegate.
2. Ma started his career at as a programmer with CMMobile, a telephone pager service company before founding Tencent. This experience was the cornerstone for his communication apps QQ and WeChat. The latter is now China’s most popular messaging app which has more than 1 billion users with profits of 23.29 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion).
3. In 1998, Ma and his friends, including Zhang Zhidong, founded Tencent. Ten years later, Tencent is listed by Forbes as the World's Most Admired Companies. Ma says, the most crucial factor in starting his business is trust.
4. When Ma co-founded Tencent, his entrepreneurship was not based on innovative ideas. He was pragmatic and used his knowledge and experience to set up instant messaging software OICQ, later known as QQ. It was actually another iteration of ICQ, developed by Israeli company Mirabilis in 1996. QQ was China's go-to chatting app before WeChat was introduced in 2011.
5. Ma, with a 9.7 per cent ownership of Tencent, is not the largest shareholder. MIH Holdings, an offshore subsidiary of South African multimedia conglomerate Naspers, owns 34 per cent of Tencent.
6. Ma came up with the idea for his company’s logo, the famous penguin, with the help of social media. It was reported that the logo was sketched by a programmer since company did not have a graphic designer in its early stages. As the company expanded, so did the size of the penguin logo and the number of in-house graphic designers.
7. Ma’s wealth not only comes from WeChat. Tencent is also the world’s largest gaming company. It owns 40 per cent of Epic Games which developed Fortnite, and owns a minority stake in video game company Activision Blizzard. It also firstly invested in a 12 per cent stake in Snapchat parent company Snap, and bought 5 per cent’s stakes in Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors. Executive director and president at Tencent Holdings, Martin Lau, is the driving force behind these cross-industry and cross-country investments.
8. Ma enlisted the help of US-based NBBJ, an American global architecture planning and design firm for the likes of Alibaba (Alibaba Group is the owner of the South China Morning Post), Suning, Amazon, Google and Samsung, for Tencent’s new corporate headquarters. Situated opposite to Shenzhen University, the unique structure is inspired by a vertical campus concept. It comprises a 50-storey tower and a 39-storey tower, and is designed to foster connectivity, creativity and knowledge.
9. Ma drives a Volvo S80L which was manufactured in China.
10. Ma met his wife through QQ. He and his family live a low-key lifestyle away from public scrutiny. When China’s social media rumour mill started spinning tales of Wang Sicong – son of China’s Dalian Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin – dating Ma’s 26-year-old daughter Ma Manlin, Ma put the matter to rest using his private sharing platform – WeChat Moments.