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10 Things You Didn't Know about Zhou Yahui

Zhou Yahui

Zhou Yahui is a Chinese billionaire. Generally speaking, he is known because of his involvement in the tech industry, which was where he made his fortune. However, Zhou's name has shown up in the news for other reasons as well, with an excellent example being how he went through one of the most expensive divorces ever. What Are 10 Things You Didn't Know About Zhou Yahui?

1. Zhou Is the Surname

Zhou Yahui is a Chinese name. As a result, Zhou is the surname rather than the personal name. Supposedly, it first saw use by the imperial descendants of the Zhou dynasty, who changed their surname from the original Ji to the commemorative Zhou. However, there are other sources for people named Zhou as well. Regardless, it is a very common surname, though it might not always be recognizable as such. For example, Zhou is the pinyin-based romanization, while other romanizations include but are not limited to Chou, Chau, Chew, Chow, and Chiau. Similarly, the Korean equivalents would be Joo and Ju while the Vietnamese equivalents would be Chau and Chu.

2. Born in Yunnan

Background-wise, Zhou was born in China's Yunnan province. Said province is situated in China's southwest, so much so that it borders Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. Unfortunately, Yunnan is one of the poorest provinces in the country in spite of its natural resources as well as its strategic location for international trade. Something that can be blamed on a combination of low productivity, low competitiveness, and a lack of major development.

3. Born in Lijiang, Yunnan

Yunnan's capital is Kunming. However, Zhou wasn't born there. Instead, he was born in the city of Lijiang, which tends to be known because of the UNESCO Heritage Site called the Old Town of Lijiang. In pre-modern times, this was an important hub for the Old Tea Horse Caravan Trail, with the result that it became an intriguing mix of both Han and Nakhi cultures. Furthermore, the Old Town of Lijiang features a well-ordered system of bridges and waterways, which makes for a wide range of picturesque locations.

4. Went to Tsinghua University

Education-wise, Zhou made quite a jump to Tsinghua University. Higher education has been prized by Chinese culture for centuries and centuries, with the result that there is intense competition for the limited spots in the top-tier schools. As such, Zhou's alma mater is notable because it is not just one of the best schools in China but also one of the best schools in the entire world.

5. Studied Engineering

Given Zhou's successes in the tech industry, interested individuals might have guessed that he studied either computer science or something else that is stereotypically tech. Said guess wouldn't be too far off of the mark, seeing as how he studied mechanical engineering and then optical engineering. One would be the enormous branch of engineering focused on machines, while the other would be the branch of engineering concerned with light.

6. Wasn't Always Successful

Entrepreneurs aren't always guaranteed to be successful. If anything, their chances of failure are much higher than their chances of success, particularly when they are entering into a competitive field with a limited war-chest. In Zhou's case, he has tasted failure before success, seeing as how he started up a video sharing site called Vulcan Net in 1999. Said site was meant to host animated videos uploaded by Tsinghua University students as well as other locals, but it never managed to become anything more because it was closed in 2004 for reasons of unprofitability.

7. Has Worked in Social Networking

It wasn't too long before Zhou got involved in social networking. To be exact, he became an executive manager for a social networking site once called the Xiaonei Network but now called the Renren Network. The change of name reflects the social networking site's change of focus. For those who are curious, Xiaonei means "on-campus," which was appropriate because the social networking site was once aimed at college students. In contrast, Renren means "everyone," which is appropriate because the social networking site is now taking aim at a much wider swathe of the general population.

8. Founded Beijing Kunlun Tech

Later, Zhou founded Beijing Kunlun Tech, which is known for making online games as well as distributing online games. China is home to a huge market when it comes to games, thus making for plenty of opportunities as well as plenty of competition. Beijing Kunlun Tech can be considered one of the companies that have managed to make it in this business environment, which in turn, means that it is one of the chief sources of Zhou's fortune.

9. Bought Grindr and Then Forced to Sell Grindr

Under Zhou's leadership, Beijing Kunlun Tech bought a 60 percent ownership stake in the LGBTQ dating app Grindr in 2016. This can sound strange considering China's reputation for conservatism when it comes to LGBTQ issues. However, the fact of the matter is that the country has a wide range of opinions on the matter, with the rural, inland regions tending to be more conservative and the urban, coastal regions tending to be more liberal. Chinese tech companies tend to be situated in the latter, so they tend to be quite open to selling products and services to the sizable LGBTQ market. In any case, Beijing Kunlun Tech winded up being forced to sell its ownership stake in Grindr by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which ruled that it was a security threat because its engineers could access potentially sensitive personal information about Grindr users.

10. Currently Focused on Opay

In 2020, Zhou made the decision to step down from the leadership of Beijing Kunlun Tech because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, he is focused on an Africa-based fintech company called Opay, which specializes in payments as well as e-commerce. Zhou's interest isn't uncommon among Chinese businesspeople, many of whom see a rising Africa as the next big thing in the global economy.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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