In October 2010, two teams of engineers in China were pitted against each other—one in Shenzhen, the second in Guangzhou. The task was to create a text messaging and group chat app for their parent company, Tencent. Two months later, Guangzhou team emerged from their little black room with “Weixin” translated as micro-message in English. It is the messaging app now known outside China as WeChat.
Since its launch in January 2011, WeChat has become more than a messaging app for its 1 billion users. WeChat is the interface that links users to a host of applications that can pay bills, book doctor appointments, find local hangouts, access bank services, hold video conferences and hail taxis. It’s like bundling Facebook + WhatsApp + Tinder + Amazon + Candy Crush + Uber—all in one app.
Behind WeChat is a billion dollar Chinese investment conglomerate called Tencent. This massive corporation has a network of companies that includes social networks, payment systems, media, entertainment, smartphones, e-commerce, property, advertising, artificial intelligence and more. Tencent’s investment is so extensive and varied that it is impossible to tell where it starts and where it ends.
Tencent joined Facebook, Apple and Amazon in 2017 as one of the tech companies that surpassed the $500 billion market cap. It made Tencent Asia’s first company to achieve this record.
Tencent is now the world’s biggest investment corporation, one of the largest internet and technology companies, and the most valuable gaming and social media company. Tencent’s reported revenue for Q1 2018 is $11.7B with a net profit of $3.8B.
This revenue performance stands very close to Facebook’s $12B and $5B, respectively. The kicker however, is in Tencent’s stock price. The company’s stocks has climbed up 60 percent since May 2017 while Facebook’s stocks increased by only 23 percent.
The company has been expanding relentlessly and growing its business outside of China. Tencent has already ventured on an e-pay service in Malaysia and has invested on American technology companies such as Tesla and Snapchat. In the gaming industry, Tencent has bought Riot Games for $400M. Riot Games is the maker of the popular online game, League of Legends. The company has even invested in Hollywood via film distributor STX Entertainment and Tencent Pictures.
Looking Back to Where It Started
Tencent’s rise to be the planet’s fifth largest internet company began in the late 1990s. Ma Huateng, also known as “Pony” co-founded
the software firm with his friend Zhang Zhidong. Capitalizing on China’s growing internet users, their initial venture is an instant messaging app called OICQ. It is later named QQ. The company went public in 2004 and has increased its stock by 11,000% in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since. Tencent continued to expand its portfolio by investing in the gaming industry since 2004 until present. But it was WeChat’s launch in 2011 that supercharged the company and primed the business to reach unprecedented growth.
Its founder, Ma Huateng is the 13th richest man on the planet with a net worth estimated at $50.9 billion in 2018. Pony Ma even surpassed Google co-founder, Sergey Brin trailing behind with $49.6 Billion net worth. Tencent currently stands strong with two other Chinese titans – Baidu and Alibaba, collectively known as the BAT. The trio is China’s answer to Silicon Valley’s FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google).
From its humble beginnings in cramped offices, to the towering Tencent Binhai Mansion Headquarters in Shenzhen, it’s time for the world to know more about this quiet giant.