CEO of TikTok developer ByteDance stands down as boss

By

U.S. investigations of TikTok gather steam.
TikTok has dominated by the App Store over the past year.
Photo: Kon Karampelas/Unsplash CC

Zhang Yiming, CEO and co-founder of TikTok maker ByteDance, has announced that he will step down from his role leading the company. Co-founder Liang Rubo, currently the company’s head of human resources, will replace him in the role. Zhang, 38, will instead focus on “long-term strategy” for the company.

TikTok has enjoyed a period of one year at the top of the App Store as the most popular non-gaming app on the platform. However, it’s also seen its fair share of challenges during that time — most notably in the U.S. when former President Trump labelled it a threat to national security.

Not an ideal manager

“There are still many things that we need to improve, and I think someone else can better drive progress through areas like improved daily management,” Zhang Yiming wrote in a note to colleagues. (Which you can read here.) “The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager.”

He continued:

“I’m more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people. Similarly, I’m not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible.”

From the sound of things, the transition will take place over the coming six months. Zhang Yiming will work with his successor to ensure a smooth transition.

“The size and scale of ByteDance means that this was always likely to happen, and Yiming has always delegated some elements of the business to others. But it’s still a shocking moment for ByteDance,” Chris Stokel-Walker, author of the upcoming book TikTok Boom: China, the US and the Superpower Race for Social Media, told Cult of Mac.

Recently Beijing has been cracking down on the influence of some of its biggest tech giants — including handing e-commerce giant Alibaba a 18.2 billion yuan ($2.78 billion) last month.

Personnel changes at the top

This isn’t the first time ByteDance has had personnel changes at the top. Notably, last August TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigned from the job after only three months in the post. Mayer had joined from Disney. Mayer was replaced on an interim basis by U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas. Last month, Chew Shou Zi replaced Pappas as CEO, having only joined in March.

“[Zhang Yiming stepping down is] unlikely to have much of an impact on TikTok users, but it does show a broader expansion for ByteDance beyond simply TikTok in the west,” said Stokel-Walker.

TikTok is available to download from the App Store. It has an average of 4.7/5 based on 9.7 million user reviews. TikTok currently has around 689 million users worldwide. According to a recent report, during the first quarter of 2021 customers spent a massive $32 billion across iOS and Android.

What impact, if any, do you think Zhang Yiming stepping down is likely to have on TikTok? Let us know your thoughts in tech comments below.