ByteDance co-founder Zhang Yiming has set up an investment fund called Cool River Venture in Hong Kong, targeting tech-related investments.

Why it matters: Since stepping down as CEO of ByteDance in 2021, Zhang has kept a low profile, rarely making public appearances. Incorporated on May 22, the fund signals a move by Zhang to diversify his wealth.

  • As Zhang launches systematic personal investment, ByteDance’s widely popular global app TikTok is facing massive challenges over privacy issues and security concerns.
  • On May 17, Montana became the first state in the US to ban downloads of TikTok, with legislation taking effect on January 1, 2024. TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the ban violates constitutional and other laws.

Details: Zhang Yiming remains the second richest person in China with a net worth of $45 billion according to Forbes’ 2023 list of the 10 richest Chinese billionaires. Zhang was surpassed only by Zhong Shanshan, the founder of drinks brand Nongfu Spring, whose wealth is valued at $68 billion.

  • Galaxy LLC, registered in the Cayman Islands, is the sole shareholder of Cool River Venture, the Hong Kong companies registry shows.
  • In May 2021, 38-year-old Zhang announced he would step down from the role of CEO at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. “The impact of technology on society is growing,” he said in a company-wide letter, expressing his interest in the emerging fields of virtual reality, life sciences, and scientific computing.
  • A person close to Zhang, cited by 36Kr, stated that since ChatGPT took the world by storm last November, Zhang has been “staying up late” reading papers on AI.
  • Zhang established a RMB 500 million education fund in his hometown Longyan in southeast China’s Fujian province after his resignation. His aim is to support vocational and arts education. He added another RMB 200 million to the fund this month.

Context: Setting up a personal investment fund or family office, or taking roles in other venture capital firms has been a popular trend among successful Chinese tech founders to manage their wealth.

  • Alongside Meituan’s co-founder Wang Xing and Li Auto’s CEO Li Xiang, Zhang Yiming is a limited partner of Beijing-based venture capital firm Source Code Capital. Wang Xing led a $530 million funding round for Li Auto as an angel investor in 2019.
  • Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s co-founder, has been managing his wealth and investments through his Hong Kong-based family office, Blue Pool Capital. Tsai’s family office investments range from sports and healthcare to crypto and blockchain.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]