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Alex (June) Zhu[1] is a 40-year-old Chinese designtreprenuer and a co-founder of Musical.ly as well as the former chief executive of TikTok after the app was acquired,[2] Alex Zhu has been promoted to vice-president of product[3] and strategy for its parent company ByteDance, making way for a Disney executive to lead the popular short video app, which is under fire for data privacy and censorship concerns.[4]

Alex Zhu is now investing in new companies on behalf of TikTok's parent company ByteDance.[2] From his early days after graduation, Zhu continued his journey to become engineer to entrepreneur with an idea that he could make an app that could create short-form educational videos.

Early Life[]

Alex Zhu was born in 1979 and raised in Anhui, an eastern landlocked Chinese province. Zhu attended an elite institution, Zhejiang University, to study civil engineering and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2000.[5][6] After graduating, Zhu worked as a designer for China Pages before he was hired to run a product design team at WebEx until 2004. His journey from an engineer to an entrepreneur was almost impossible for him due to failure. Zhu worked in China until he realized that things "were not as smooth as he thought."[7][8]

He went to the United States to work as a product designer and manager for the German company SAP, for which he earned the title of "futurist of education" in 2000.[9] He also took a special interest in education while there and came up with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur himself by developing an app for hosting short-form educational videos. Zhu briefly worked as a Creative Director at Microsoft, driving "mobile disruption" initiatives in the consumer space.[7][10][8]

Carrer[]

Cicada to Musical.ly Development[]

Main Article: Musical.ly

Alex Zhu and his long-time friend Luyu Yang met while working as Directors of Product at an insurtech company in Shanghai, eBaoTech. Alex Zhu and his co-founder raised $250,000 in venture from China Rock Capital Management to develop an app called Cicada for six months. When the app was first released, it "was doomed to be a failure" because videos took too long and "it didn't hit the target demographic of teens".

With 8% of their money remaining, Alex Zhu, while embarking on a train in Mountain View, California, noticed a group of young teenagers taking selfies, listening to music, and adding stickers with their phones. This is where Zhu got his new idea for an app. Zhu's team created an app based on his concept in 30 days, naming it "Musical.ly". The app was instantly a success, over 500 users were downloading the app daily.[10][8][11][12] This was where Zhu shifted the focus of the app from education, to entertainment.

In April 2015, the team noticed that the videos from Musical.ly were posted on both Twitter and Instagram while making a few minor design changes to the app, which led them to reposition the watermark to make it clear that it belongs to Musical.ly. [10]

On July 6, 2015, Musical.ly became the number one app in the iTunes app store[13] and was called the first Chinese social media app that was popular in the United States. TIME ranked Musical.ly at 7th in their 25 Best Apps of the Year, as well as receiving the Wall Street Journal’s 2017 Innovators Award. The app was later acquired by ByteDance for 1$ billion to be merged as a separate app from Douyin, renaming the app as "TikTok".[14] [15][16][17][10]

Personal Life[]

Zhu was said to have been married, there weren't many information about his personal life as Zhu wanted to keep it private all the time.

References[]

  1. https://www.crunchbase.com/person/alex-june-zhu
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shead, S. (2020, July 21). "TikTok's Former CEO Alex Zhu Takes On Investment Duties At ByteDance". CNBC
  3. Chen, C. (2020, July 21). 0"ByteDance Appoints Former TikTok Boss And Musical.ly Founder Alex Zhu As Strategic Investment Head". Pandaily
  4. Qu, T. (2020, May 19). "After a Stint As TikTok Chief, Alex Zhu Returns To His ‘primary Passion’". South China Morning Post.
  5. Zhong, R. (2019, November 18). "TikTok’s Chief Is On a Mission To Prove It’s Not a Menace"
  6. Banjo, S., & Wen, S. (2020, April 22). "TikTok Started With a Tech Guy From China Who Decoded America’s Teens" Bloomberg
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Bringing Back The Fun To Social Media, As A Global Phenomenon With Alex Zhu" (2020, April 14). Eyerys.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Business Insider. (2019, December 12). "Who is TikTok chief Alex Zhu, new head of Gen Z’s favourite video sharing app – and should US regulators". South China Morning Post
  9. Buisness Insider, (2019, December 12). "Who Is Alex Zhu, the New Head Of TikTok?". South China Morning Post.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Carson, B. (2016, May 8). "The Inside Story Of Musical.ly". Business Insider.
  11. Business Insider. (2019, December 12). "Who is TikTok chief Alex Zhu, new head of Gen Z’s favourite video sharing app – and should US regulators" South China Morning Post.
  12. "Tiktok Former CEO Is Suspected Of Making Investments Secretly". (2020, July 22). DistilINFO IT.
  13. Daniel. (2020, November 27). "What is tik Tok? Why is it so popular?". Brandastic
  14. Lee, D. (2018, August 2). "The popular Musical.ly app has been rebranded as TikTok". The Verge.
  15. Anstädt, F. (2020, September 13). "The rise of TIKTOK". GründerAtelier.
  16. Reuters. (2019, November 1). "US investigating TikTok owner ByteDance over US$1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly". South China Morning Post.
  17. Novak, T. (2020, May 21). "The rise of TikTok and understanding its parent Company, ByteDance". Turner's Blog.

External Links[]

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