As the founder of the entertainment giant Tencent, Ma Huateng (or Pony Ma, as he’s better known) ranks as one of the richest people on the planet. Best known as the brains behind the WeChat messaging app and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Pony Ma is a man who knows how to turn an idea into hard cash. But despite his billions, he remains something of a mystery. While most of us are familiar with his creations, very few of us know anything about the man behind them. If you’ve ever wanted to find out more about one of China’s richest men, you’ve come to the right place. Without further ado, here are ten things you didn’t know about Pony Ma.
1. He dreamt of being an astronomer
Pony Ma always dreamed big, even as a child, but his childhood dreams were a far cry from where he’d eventually end up. As indianexpress.com notes, when Ma was young, he wanted nothing more than to be an astronomer. While his career as a computer engineer may seem a world away, he’s kept in touch with those childhood dreams via his investments in companies such as Moon Express, Satellogic and Planetary Resources, all of which are involved in space exploration.
2. Pony Ma isn’t his real name
If you thought Pony Ma seemed a slightly unusual name, you’d be right. Ma’s birth name is actually Ma Huateng. Pony, which comes from his family name Ma (马). means “horse” in English, and is simply a nickname.
3. He’s got a degree in computer science
Ma was born in Chaoyang District, Shantou, Guangdong on October 29, 1971. After graduating high school, he won a place in Shenzhen University in 1989. 4 years later, he left the university with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science.
4. His first paycheck was for $176 a month
He may be raking in the billions now, but it wasn’t always that way. Ma’s first job after graduating from Shenzhen University was as a programmer with China Motion Telecom Development. Even by the standards of the time, his wage of $176 (Rs 12,891) per month was barely enough to keep in him bread and water. After leaving CMMobile, he landed a job in the research and development department at Shenzhen Runxun Communications.
5. He’s the brains behind Tencent
Shenzhen Runxun Communications wasn’t enough to sate Ma’s ambitions for long. In 1998, he left the company to co-found Tencent along with four former classmates. In 1999, the company launched its first product, OICO, after Ma was inspired by ICQ, the world’s first Internet instant messaging service. Since those early day, Tencent has gone on to to become one of the largest Internet and technology companies in China, not to mention one of the biggest investments, gaming and entertainment conglomerates in the world. Along with creating China’s biggest mobile instant messaging service, WeChat, it’s also dabbled in media, entertainment, payment systems, smartphones, internet-related services, value-added services and online advertising services.
6. He’s been compared to Warren Buffet
If there’s one person you’re not going to mind being compared to, it’s Warren Buffet. With a net worth US$78.9 billion, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is widely considered to be one of the most successful investors in the world. It was undoubtedly a proud moment in Ma’s life, then, when Bloomberg named him tech’s newest Warren Buffet. Like Buffet, Ma is considered an “aggressive acquisitor”. In addition to sharing similar investment philosophies to Buffet, he’s also renowned for keeping a low profile and making generous donations to various philanthropic causes… just like Buffet himself.
7. He’s a multi-billionaire
Pony Ma is rich in the kind of way that’s hard to wrap your head around. According to Forbes, the business magnate is worth the grand sum of $61.6 billion, a fortune that’s managed to earn him 20th place on the publications Billionaires list, 2nd place on their China Rich list of 2019, 27th place on their Powerful People 2018, and number 8 on their Richest in Tech 2017.
8. He’s a philanthropist
If there’s one thing Ma loves more than anything else, it’s a good cause. Over the years, he’s contributed generously to several worthy endeavors, becoming one of China’s most prolific (if secretive) philanthropists in the process. In 2016, he donated $2.3 billion worth of his personal Tencent shares to his charitable foundation, the Ma Huateng Global Foundation (马化腾环球基金会). However, as the shares were still technically in his name, it didn’t make an ounce of difference to his net worth, at least according to Forbes’s methodology. Tencent is clearly a charitably minded kind of place. Along with Ma’s own outstanding track record, his fellow co-founder, Charles Chen, managed to pull in a No. 1 ranking on the 2017 Forbes China Philanthropy List thanks to his own very generous charitable donations of $348 million.
9. He owns one of China’s most expensive properties
Pony Ma might keep a low profile, but he’s not averse to splashing the cash when the occasion calls. One of his most outrageously expensive investments to date was on a palatial property that, according to scmp.com, ranks as one of the most expensive residences in Hong Kong. Nestled in woodland between Shek O and Big Wave Bay and occupying 19,600 sq ft of land, the house was purchased by Ma in 2009 for the relatively minor price of HK$480 million. Thanks to the extensive renovation work he’s organized since, property experts now value the property at a hefty HK$1.8 billion.
10. He met his wife through work
Tencent may have done wonders for Pony Ma’s professional career, but it’s also done great things for his personal life as well. It was via the QQ messaging service, a product that was developed by Tencent, that Ma met his wife. Although he likes to keep his private life exactly that, its thought that the couple’s daughter, Ma Manlin, is currently dating the son of Wang Janlin, the founder of China’s largest real estate development company, Dalian Wanda Group.