Yiming Zhang: Co-founder of TikTok

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a Bytedance Limited mobile video app that integrates artificial intelligence with short video sharing. Users can film or post a 15-second video to share their life or experiences. For me, it’s like learning tapas; I can acquire the stuff I want to study in a short amount of time, such as PPT and Excel skills or a creative dish recipe. Because this app incorporates AI technology, it will recognize the kind of videos that users enjoy and automatically show these videos to them. TikTok has 689 million monthly active users, according to sources, while Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) has 600 million daily active users.

Who is the co-founder?

Yiming Zhang is the co-founder and CEO of Bytedance. As an entrepreneur with a technical background, the 36-year-old Yiming Zhang has a wealth of entrepreneurial expertise. He earned a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from Nankai University in 2005. The majority of his professional experience is in the field of technology. For example, he was involved in founding a number of Internet enterprises, including Kuxun and Jiujiufang.

Yiming Zhang established ByteDance in March 2012 after noticing the growing trend of the mobile Internet. Before founding TikTok, his team first developed a mobile application called “TopBuzz” and then continued to explore different products, such as watermelon video, connotation comics, etc. Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) was launched in September 2016. The Bytedance AI Lab was founded in October 2016. Bytedance has also become the first choice for a large number of technical talents. In 2017, Douyin was renamed TikTok and entered the international App Store and Android application markets. It officially entered the North American market in 2018 when it paid $1 billion for the short video APP Music.ly, which has over 240 million users. TikTok MAUs are expected to reach 1.2 billion in 2021, and TikTok is valued at $50 billion by investors. Yiming Zhang, the company’s CEO, is stepping down on May 20, 2021.

I believe TikTok is a marketable invention, and Yiming Zhang has deftly grasped the problem of mobile Internet information overload. People in today’s environment are confronted with an increasing number of options, and they are frequently at a loss for what to do in the face of an onslaught of information. In this situation, the information gathering approach will no longer be the traditional media’s human editing mode but rather a more intelligent and personalized automatic recommendation, which is especially valuable in today’s fast-paced environment.






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7 responses to “Yiming Zhang: Co-founder of TikTok”

  1. Simin Rupa

    Hi Mengha, Yiming Zhang is an excellent founder choice, and I believe this post highlights his accomplishments. TikTok is another social media app that has taken the world by storm. They are continually referenced, updated, and within the media eye and the application stores on mobile devices. I think addressing the choices Yiming Zhang made in the creation of the a was good, especially drawing notes to music.ly. Accessing this userbase is continued hailed as the key reason TikTok took off.

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  2. SallyB

    Yiming Zhang was an inspired choice of founders; I completely forgot/disregarded TikTok as an educational technology but it definitely can (and is) used this way. (Perhaps more often in K-12 than post-secondary?)

    His involvement in the development of several (or more) previous apps. suggests he is adept at diversification and future thinking, key skillsets for success in the fast-paced technology market.

    Central to TikTok is it’s ability to predict the kinds of videos you’ll be interested in watching and show them to you. Combine this with a short duration and music, and it is a recipe for an addictive dopamine cycle. Your observation about intelligent personalization is astute and this is precisely the kind of intelligence I’d like to start seeing in more learning technologies; but instead of showing what you want to see, it would show what you need to see. I think language learning apps (like Duolingo) have started to do this, but it’s something I would like to see more of in educational video management systems particularly, or perhaps asset management systems in general. It could really help students study, research and support higher order thinking.

    I’m reminded of week 3, and the “opportunity activation” section that ends by saying:

    “The consequences of pursuing the right ideas, in the right place, at the right time, and making the right decisions along the way, injects considerable risk into every venture. The single best way to mitigate such risks is to work with the right people, which is the subject of the next section.”

    As co-founder of TikTok, an app. certainly created “for the right time”, Yiming Zhang may be part inventor and entrepreneur, that is he understands the value of an original idea and how to apply that idea successfully.

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    1. Menghan Guo

      Hi, Sally. Thanks for the comments. TikTok can be an educational technology that is often underestimated because people usually utilize it to relax and unwind. Although a short video is not the best way to convey information, it can be used as an effective supplementary tool in the classroom to stimulate students’ interest in learning because of its rapid and eye-catching features.

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  3. tiffany ku

    Great addition to the founders parade Menghan. I agree with the comments above that it is definitely an underrated “learning technology” because it is involved in so many different aspects of the global market, which just speaks to how well Yiming Zhang has been able to navigate the ever progressing worlds of technology and business. Often I forget about the power of Tiktok in education because it is so frequently used a public social media platform, and comparatively “casual” when put side by side with other educational technologies like the Microsoft programs, which are deemed more “professional”. However, due to the high ratio of gen-Z users already on the platform and are addicted (I can’t get my students off of it and its quite shocking just how many hours they typically spend on it), it is quite the perfect learning tool. With bite sized videos containing anything from DIY tutorials, dances, humor, recipes, life hacks, and niche interests, Yiming and his team have done a great job in guiding the direction of the app to be an accessible, user-friendly and fun app for really anyone with a phone and internet connection.

    I believe one of the biggest benefits in using TikTok for educational use would be its ability to create community using the content; as humans we are social animals. A highly popular feature I see people using often is doing “duets” with others, which allows for easy collaboration to build onto an existing audio or visual. In my students I can see just how central “community” and “interaction” are to a learning experience, and can make or break that learning ( which I especially saw during the pandemic). Yiming and his team clearly understood the power of people connection through technology and were able to extrapolate that strength through software engineering and AI, which is clearly shown in their success.

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    1. Menghan Guo

      Hi Tiffany. I once saw a news report about a high school Chinese teacher who mixed his Douyin (Chinese Tiktok) technique with his teaching content. The teacher posted a 15-second video to his Douyin showing write a Chinese character or explain a Chinese knowledge point everyday, and encourage students to view it after school. His followers grew from 65 students in his class to the entire grade of the school.  “Our children can review knowledge points on your Douyin,” parents of students told him, and his followers base grew to 2 million. One-third of the followers are above the age of 30, attracted to the teacher’s unique video content and intriguing clips and the content of the explanation, which can fill in gaps in their previous language knowledge.

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  4. Kyle

    This is a great inclusion to the founders parade; a classic entrepreneur who has evolved with the technology to help not only TikTok but other products of Bytedance through the ebb and flow of the technology world, most especially in the social media realm. TikTok is, as most have suggested here, quite underrated in the education field because of it’s prevalence in the social world, it’s use by students primarily as a way of creating community and inclusion within groups as opposed to “learning”. If we take that and think about what the goals of educators are; community and inclusion are two key characteristics of a successful learning environment. While we may not use TikTok directly in the classroom, we could heed the lessons of what TikTok represents in the classroom in an effort to make it the best learning environment it can be.

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  5. helena wright

    In today’s day and age, I think that most young people are learning more on TikTok than they are in their own classrooms (perhaps myself included – I feel like TikTok exposes to such a diver range of topics and experiences, things that I would NEVER encounter through my own social circles). With TikTok, users need to have more discretion in knowing who they can trust and what information is factual. In many instances, users need to gravitate to accounts that have proven credibility as being part of a recognized organization (like a wildlife rescue) or as a notable figure in the field.

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