Big data and beyond: China’s Cheetah Mobile plans second HQ in US after hiring Charles Fan

World’s leading mobile security and utility app developer sees big data as ‘central strategy’ for this year; joins list of Chinese tech and internet firms making high-profile appointments

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 8:39pm

Chinese technology company Cheetah Mobile, the world’s leading mobile security and utility app developer, plans to establish its new headquarters in the United States, build up its gaming business and pursue major “big data” initiatives after landing highly sought recruit Charles Fan.

New York-listed Cheetah Mobile announced on Wednesday that Fan will now lead global research and development activities as its new chief technology officer, taking over a post previously held by company president Xu Ming.

“Big data is a central strategy for Cheetah Mobile in 2016 and beyond. I also aim to contribute to the international expansion of one of the fastest-growing mobile companies in the world,” Fan told the South China Morning Post.

His appointment marks the latest high-profile executive hiring made by a major Chinese internet company, following online search powerhouse Baidu’s recruitment of Zhang Yaqin from Microsoft in 2014.

Zhang, a protege of Bill Gates, helped build Microsoft’s biggest technology research operation outside of the United States as the chairman of its Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group based in Beijing. He moved to Baidu as its president for new business.

Fan joined Cheetah Mobile after leading the research and development operations in China of US storage systems giant EMC and its subsidiary, cloud computing company VMware, over the past 10 years. He most recently served as senior vice-president for VMware’s storage and big data businesses.

Dell, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of personal computers, agreed to acquire EMC last October in a deal worth US$67 billion. In December, EMC and VMware formed an independent joint venture company called Virtustream.

“Combining proven leadership and a deep insight into technology, Charles is the perfect person to lead our technology team, and to take our US presence to the next level,” said Fu Sheng, the chief executive at Cheetah Mobile.

Fan said a successful big data strategy would be key to Cheetah Mobile’s next stage of growth.

“The company has around 600 million monthly active users. There is a lot of value in that data, which can provide great insight into making our products and services better for our customers,” he said.

Technology research firm IDC has forecast annual global spending for big data technology and services to reach US$48.6 billion in 2019, driven by demand in manufacturing, securities and investment services, banking and media.

Under Fan, Cheetah Mobile will establish a major research and development centre for its big data strategy in California’s Silicon Valley.

The move is expected to allow Cheetah Mobile to attract more engineering talent from around the world. It currently employs more than 1,400 research and development personnel, many of which are on the mainland.

Fan said the plan was to set up that new US facility as the company’s second headquarters after Beijing. Cheetah Mobile initial US operation started in 2014.

That would reflect the focus on international expansion since 74 per cent of Cheetah Mobile’s monthly active users reside outside China, Fan said.

Apart from its flagship anti-virus and systems cleaning apps, Cheetah Mobile has also become one of the top-three mobile game developers in the world. Its mobile game Piano Tiles 2 reached the No 1 ranking in more than 150 countries globally on both Apple iOS and Android devices.