Pony Ma who is also named Ma Huateng is a Chinese businessman, investor, philanthropist, and politician. Pony is a nickname that Ma uses, derived from the English translation of his family name. Which means “horse.” He is the co-founder and CEO of Tencent, a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company. Interestingly, even the name of Ma’s company, Tencent’s Chinese name, Tengxun, stands for “an era of messaging in the speed of 10,000 horses running.”
In 2017, Ma briefly surpassed Google founders in the Forbes Top Ten Richest List. It was the first time a Chinese billionaire managed to enter the list. Ma is the second richest person in China with a net value of $45.6 billion. Ma acquired his fortune from Tencent, an internet-based platform company that enriches the lives of people with the use of technology. Tencent’s popular social messaging app has more than a billion users.
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Pony Ma: The Man behind Tencent
Ma’s Personal Life
Ma’s hometown is in Shantou, a city in southern China’s Guangdong province. His father, Ma Chenshu, moved to Hainan with his family and then to Shenzhen, near Hong Kong in 1984. Ma’s father worked there as a port manager where Ma used to accompany him. Ma studied at Shenzhen University from 1989 to 1993 where he graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science.
Pony Ma met his wife Wang Dan-ting after chatting with her through the very first instant messaging service of his company. Ma is very private about his personal life. He lives with his wife and daughter in Shenzhen, far away from the media and public eyes. He has a three-story house worth $230 million, which is over 19,600 square meters in Hong Kong.
After graduating, Ma’s first job was software development for pagers at China Motion Telecom Development, in Shenzhen. He also worked in the internet calling services of the R&D department at Shenzhen Runxun. In 1998, Ma co-founded Tencent with his three classmates, Chen Yidan, Zhang Zhidong, ZengLiqing and XuChenye. At first, Tencent decided to launch instant messaging similar to ICQ.
The service created by Tencent was called OICQ at first, after its inspiration. Later on, the name was changed to QQ in the year 2000. It became insanely popular in a short time, gaining more than a million registered users under 1 year. QQ was the go-to app for the Chinese before WeChat was launched in 2011.
As QQ was built around the model of ICQ, many labeled Ma as a copycat. Ma decided to put the company and himself out of that label. Tencent launched WeChat in January 2011. WeChat is a multi-purpose app comprising of instant messaging, social media, online payment and delivery app that has over a billion monthly active users and is the largest instant messaging platform in the world.
Tencent also initiated an online gaming site in 2004 and also an e-commerce platform for buying and selling online in 2005. Since its birth, Tencent has managed to bag some huge numbers. Making it one of the top tech companies in the world with a total of over 50,000 employees working there.
The corporate headquarters of Tencent is situated opposite to Shenzhen University comprising of a 50-story tower and a 39-story tower. The unique structure of the headquarters was inspired by a vertical campus concept. He enlisted NBBJ for this task- which is a US-based architecture, planning and design firm that designed offices for many other major corporate offices.
Ma and Politics
Pony Ma serves in the 12th National People’s Congress and also is a deputy Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress. As Tencent holds the position of being the biggest social and instant messaging platform of China, Ma is told to have questionable relationships with the Communist Party. He and even his competitor Jack Ma, of Alibaba, were honored by the Chinese Communist Party for their contributions to the reform and opening up.
The Chinese government has pretty strict rules and regulations when it comes to the online world. Ma wishes to stay in good graces with the government to avoid any kind of issues regarding his company. In 2017, a game developed by Tencent had become so addictive to the youngsters, that the Chinese government called it “poison”. Tencent limited the game time for teenagers to two hours and banned children from logging in after 9 pm.
Keep Your “Enemies” Closer
It’s impossible to be crowned as one of the best in the business world without having to compete with other bigger or similar companies. WeChat of Tencent may be one of the biggest social platforms for instant messaging service, but there are others out there.
As mentioned before, Ma managed to acquire the label of being a copycat for his apps is similar to others in the market. Ma also bought shares in companies like Snapchat, Spotify, and Tesla that operate in the same fields as his company.
Finally, growing up, Pony Ma wanted to become an astronaut. But, almost everyone would agree that his decision of joining the business world wasn’t wrong. Despite being one of the richest persons in the world, Ma is very conservative about his private life family and avoids media exposure as much as he can.
Ma is said to be very kind and cares about his employees a lot. He might be quiet, but his achievements speak volumes.