ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has ushered in a comprehensive organizational reshuffle, Zhang Yiming, CEO and founder of the company, said in an internal email issued on March 12.
Two executives will oversee the company's business in China, as Zhang becomes Global CEO and freeing himself to focus issues on Europe, the U.S., and other overseas markets where the company is betting on growth. In the email, Zhang also mentioned that better improving the management of a large multinational company would be a new topic for ByteDance to learn.
Best known for Tik Tok and its matrix of apps, ByteDance is obsessed with launching different versions of the same product in both overseas and domestic.
In terms of short video platforms, it has TikTok and Vigo overseas, while Douyin and Huoshan stand for the domestic versions. As for news aggregators, it runs TopBuzz outside China and Toutiao at home. Together these apps account for 1.5 billion monthly active users, the company says, among which about 700 million are daily active users.
As early as 2013, just one year after the company was founded, Zhang started planning its global expansion, according to Joan Wang, an early investor in ByteDance and managing director of SIG China.
In addition to operating short video apps and news aggregators, ByteDance has taken a number of steps to increase its presence in overseas markets. It has been testing the music-streaming waters with a Spotify-like service called Resso in emerging markets since the end of last year, and officially launched in India and Indonesia in March.
The company is making a big push into the mobile games sector with its own development studios this year in both domestic and overseas markets. "Combat of Hero," a martial arts-themed game published by the company, has become the most downloaded free iOS title in a few overseas markets for four consecutive days since March 7, according to data from analytics firm App Annie.
The Chinese firm headquartered its corporate productivity tool, Lark, in Singapore, and launched the product from the city-state in April 2019. Feishu, the Chinese version, is run by a separate legal entity of the company in Beijing.
Most recently, ByteDance, one the world's most valuable unicorns, is reportedly extending its tentacles into the payment sector. By increasing headcounts in Singapore for its global payments department, the company aims to provide cross-border payment solutions for all of its products and services. In China, the company has already made its plan for the payment industry and applied for the "Byte Payment" trademark registration in Beijing in mid-2019. As of December 31, 2019, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has received 21 digital bank license applications, one of which was from ByteDance.
According to Zhang, ByteDance has set a goal to nearly double its headcount from 60,000 worldwide to 100,000 by the end of the year. The eight-year-old startup valued at $78 billion in its latest financing round, currently has employees across 30 countries.
However, in overseas markets, some of its products have proven to be less popular than TikTok. At the same time, some face greater hurdles. As the newcomer in the industries, such as work collaboration, payment, and gaming, dominated by giants, it won't be easy for ByteDance to take a slice of the market share.
According to The Information's report in September 2019, due to TopBuzz's poor performance overseas, ByteDance was in talks with potential buyers, including with some US-based media companies, to sell the news aggregator.
As the first Chinese Internet company to achieve significant success in global markets with a social media app, ByteDance has not stopped expanding overseas. Still, there are many regulatory obstacles to be addressed.
In February 2019, TikTok agreed to pay a US$5.7 million fine to U.S. authorities to settle charges that it violated the U.S. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, illegally collecting personal information from underage users. Two months later, it was banned in India after a court said TikTok encouraged pornography and could be used by sexual predators to target children. Last month, some U.S. government agencies, as well as the military, banned employees from using TikTok due to data security issues.
To lessen the image of "Made in China," ByteDance is reportedly looking for places outside of China to establish a global headquarters for TikTok. As the parent company, ByteDance is also recruiting executives worldwide to meet the challenges of global expansion.