Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, testified this week before the U.S. Congress at a hearing with the Energy and Commerce Committee. In it, the head of the ByteDance-owned company denied any possible ties between TikTok and the Chinese government, including the possibility of the app handing over U.S. user data to the Chinese government.
With a TikTok ban in the air and increasingly possible (if the company doesn’t end up being sold to a US company), attention has now turned to the CEO of the short video app, who will be facing a storm that could severely damage TikTok and ByteDance. But who is Shou Zi Chew? We tell you the highlights of this seasoned entrepreneur’s life, based on research conducted by the BBC.
A leader or a puppet?
Shou Zi Chew was born and raised in Singapore, an Asian sovereign state. In his education, he attended a prominent elite Chinese language school, where he learned and mastered both English and Mandarin. As the years went by, he had to serve his compulsory military service in Singapore, becoming an officer in the country’s armed forces.
TikTok’s current CEO graduated from University College London with a degree in Economics. Shortly after, he entered the prestigious Harvard Business School, where he obtained an MBA, and interned at Facebook (now Meta), when it was still a startup.
After spending 5 years at the investment firm DST, his team and he became the first investors of ByteDance in 2013. In the following years, his career took a big leap, becoming the CFO and president of international business of the Xiaomi brand, being the one to lead the company’s IPO in 2018.
Three years later, in 2021, Chew became ByteDance’s first CFO. A position that would not last long, as just two months later he took over as CEO of TikTok following the resignation of his predecessor, Kevin Mayer, who stepped down after the Donald Trump administration wanted to force the sale of its U.S. assets to a domestic company.
With a rather bleak outlook for TikTok in the United States, Shou Zi Chew faces a big challenge that could jeopardize not only its position but the company’s standing globally. Should TikTok be banned in the U.S., the company would lose a major source of revenue that would go into the hands of large U.S. companies such as Meta, Snapchat and YouTube.
Although the responsibility may not fall entirely on him. Despite the strong capabilities suggested by his experience and background, some voices question Chew’s real power at TikTok. The New York Times claimed in an article published in September that Shou Zi Chew’s ability to make decisions is limited and that the person who really manages the company is ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming.
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