Zhang Yiming, the co-founder of ByteDance, the parent company of the popular social media platform TikTok, has established a new private investment fund in Hong Kong. The fund, known as Cool River Venture, will primarily focus on investing in technology-related industries.
This move comes as Zhang has maintained a low profile since stepping down from his corporate roles two years ago. The fund’s registration documents indicate that Zhang is the sole director, and its sole shareholder is a Cayman Islands entity called Galaxy LLC.
Zhang’s new venture emerges as Hong Kong aims to attract affluent individuals following a period of population decline and isolation caused by the Covid pandemic. The government has implemented measures, such as tax cuts, with the goal of attracting over 200 family offices to establish or expand their operations in the city by the end of 2025.
In Zhang’s resignation letter to ByteDance employees in May 2021, he expressed his intention to shift his focus towards long-term strategy, corporate culture, and social responsibility. He also conveyed a strong interest in emerging technology sectors, including virtual reality, life sciences, and scientific computing.
Earlier this month, Zhang made a donation of 200 million yuan to the Fangmei Education Development Fund, supporting vocational and arts education in his hometown. This is known to be his only public contribution since his resignation.
With a net worth of approximately US$42.3 billion, as reported by the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Zhang stands among the top-ranking tech executives who have stepped down from their corporate positions. His decision comes amidst China’s “common prosperity” campaign, aimed at reducing wealth inequality and targeting affluent individuals.
This movement has prompted several high-profile figures to relinquish their roles. During this time, Zhang has been actively involved in philanthropic endeavors, including his contributions to an education fund in his hometown. Additionally, he has frequently traveled to Singapore in recent years, exploring new opportunities beyond his previous corporate responsibilities.
Despite ByteDance‘s impressive financial performance, generating revenue exceeding US$80 billion in 2022 with a notable increase of over 30%, challenges persist for its flagship product TikTok, particularly in the United States.
TikTok, the popular US short-video app, boasts a user base of over 100 million in the country. However, it has been entangled in political turmoil, attracting scrutiny from lawmakers. In a five-hour Congressional hearing held in March, TikTok’s CEO faced intense questioning as lawmakers expressed concerns about the app’s Chinese ownership and the potential access Beijing might have to the data of millions of American users.
Adding to its troubles, last week, the governor of Montana signed a measure imposing a ban on the app’s download by the general public. ByteDance is actively seeking measures to overturn this ban, as it aims to address the challenges and regulatory obstacles facing TikTok in the US market.
Cool River Venture HK Ltd, the newly incorporated investment company, signals Zhang Yiming’s intention to embark on a new chapter following his departure from leadership positions at ByteDance.
Although further details about Cool River Venture’s investment strategy are yet to be disclosed, the establishment of this fund reflects Zhang’s continued interest in the startup ecosystem and his desire to contribute to the advancement of technology-driven enterprises.