From Disney to “Byte,” how long can Kevin Mayer “beat”?

On May 19th Kevin Mayer, once considered Disney’s prince, announced his departure from Disney to join Byte Dance as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer of TikTok Global. Kevin Mayer’s new appointment has attracted a huge amount of attention in China’s tech world.

As one of the three tmD sweables, ByteDance has grown rapidly and its valuation has risen steadily in recent years. According to media reports, ByteDance’s valuation exceeded $100 billion in recent non-public stock transactions, capping at $140 billion, making it the world’s most valuable start-up.

ByteDance is growing into a global company with an increasingly important overseas presence, and TikTok is an important engine for its expansion into overseas markets. According to Data disclosed by Appin Business in April 2020, more than 43% of all users of TikTok and are overseas.

In order to show the importance attached to overseas business, in March 2020, Zhang Yiming sent an internal letter announcing a comprehensive upgrade of the organizational structure, in which Zhang Yiming said he would become the global CEO to lead the company’s global strategy and development.

ByteDance has offices in 30 countries and more than 180 cities, employing more than 60,000 people, and will expand to 100,000 by the end of 2020, Zhang said.

Therefore, the position of Chief Operating Officer of ByteDance and Global Ceo of TikTok is particularly important. Upon the arrival of Kevin Mayer, he will be responsible for TikTok, Helo, music, gaming, etc., as well as for byteDance’s global functions outside China, including corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, legal services, etc. At the level, Kevin Mayer reports directly to Zhang Yiming, along with Zhang Lidong, chairman of ByteDance China, and Zhang Nan, CEO of ByteDance China.

Kevin Mayer

This means that Zhang Yiming has given him the half of Byte Dance. But there has always been doubts about Kevin Mayer, who, as a foreign executive, can he do well?

Hiring foreign executives is not uncommon among China’s tech giants, but in most cases they end up in a strange circle: either with high salaries, with a beautiful title, engaged in “marginal business” such as law and overseas public relations, or have been much reused in the early stages, high-profile airdrops, but ultimately left.

Will Kevin Mayer break this mess?

Foreign executives ‘weird’: either go or go nowhere

History is always strikingly similar.

In August 2013, Xiaomi welcomed Hugo Barra, a former vice president of Product Management for Google’s Android products, a heavyweight foreign executive.

Like Kevin Mayer’s move to Byte Dance, Hugo Barra’s arrival in Xiaomi caused a huge stir at the time.

Comparing these two things, you’ll find a lot of interesting similarities. For example, both parties are the stars of the old owners.

Kevin Mayer, once considered Disney’s hottest executive, helped drive acquisitions of Pixar Animation, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 21st Century Fox during his time at Disney, and was responsible for taking over streaming platforms such as Hulu, ESPN Plus and Hotstar. Recently, he led the launch of the popular Disney Plus, a platform that currently has 50m paying subscribers worldwide.

Former Disney CEO Robert Iger has praised Kevin Mayer as a “master strategist and negotiator” who has been considered a popular choice to take over as Disney’s chief executive.

Hugo Barra is also one of the most iconic public figures on the Android operating system team, and is seen as Google’s future star on the left arm of Sundar Pichai, the current CEO of Google, then head of Android business.

“I’ve seen some comments that Xiaomi hired a global vice president and it’s no big deal, but what I need to say is that there are three principals on Android, Hugo Barra, one of whom is definitely android number two.” “This will, when the Thunder excited to say that Hugo Barra’s joining is not a small matter.

Hugo Barra, former vice president of Xiaomi Global

Both men suffered some “failures” before leaving their old home. Kevin Mayer’s departure came in the context of a failed battle for Disney’s successor, and one thing that happened before Hugo Barra left was that he competed with Google founder Brin for the same person, but also suffered a defeat.

For the next stop, they all chose the most popular startups in the tech industry at the time.

ByteDance’s revenue has been growing exponentially in recent years, from $6 billion in 2016 to $16 billion in 2017 to $50 billion in 2018, according to public media reports. Earlier this year, ByteDance was revealed to have operated for more than $140 billion for the full year of 2019, but officials later responded by saying the information was false, but did not disclose specific figures.

When Hugo Barra joined Xiaomi, the latter was in a period of rapid development. From August 2011, Xiaomi released Xiaomi generation, with the characteristics of cost-effective, it quickly became the mobile phone industry’s largest dark horse, production in short supply. In 2013, Xiaomi’s sales reached 31.6 billion yuan.

Xiaomi’s appearance shook the mobile phone industry, led by Huawei industry giants deeply felt the changes in the industry situation brought about by the Xiaomi model, began to shout out the “learn from Xiaomi” slogan, Lei Jun believes that Xiaomi created a miracle at that time.

In this case, Hugo Barra is expected by Xiaomi to help Xiaomi open up overseas markets. Lei Jun has said that Hugo Barra to Xiaomi is mainly responsible for international business, helping Xiaomi become a world-class company. Xiaomi co-founder Lin Bin also believes that “Hugo Barra’s whole job is to find out which market we should enter next and how to enter.” “

Surprisingly, however, Hugo Barra has only been at Xiaomi for three years. In early 2017, Hugo Barra announced on Facebook that he was leaving Xiaomi for health reasons, and he joined Facebook to lead a VR team that includes Oculus.

From being highly anticipated to being out, Hugo Barra’s experience as a foreign executive is not a case in China’s technology industry. Several technology companies have employed expatriates for executive positions, such as NIO, Baidu and Huawei, but most of these foreign executives have not been able to fare well in China.

In 2015, NIO welcomed Padmasree Warrior, a former Motorola Chief Technology Officer and former Cisco Chief Technology Officer, who became NIO’s U.S. CEO and, in 2016, a director of NIO Automotive.

NIO’s recruitment of Wusley is a big fan of its influence in Silicon Valley, which NIO founder Li Bin believes can help NIO gain the trust of partners and suppliers and help attract more talent.

To this end, NIO was very generous to give Worsi valuable options as an incentive, NIO IPO prospectus shows that Wusley is the third largest individual shareholder after Li Bin and Li want, in addition, Wusli is one of the three representatives of NIO Automotive to NIO Capital.

But also three years later, in November 2018, Ms. Woolley left.

Another foreign executive who has not escaped the “three-year itch” is Andrew Ng, a former Baidu chief scientist, who joined Baidu as chief scientist in 2014 and announced his departure from Baidu in 2017.

Huawei, which has a global presence, has not lacked a similar case in bringing in foreign executives. Colin Giles, a former Nokia President in China, joined Huawei in 2013 as executive vice president of Huawei’s mobile consumer business, responsible for global marketing, retail and open market operations, but within a year he left and joined Lenovo until he returned to Huawei in 2015.

Former Nokia China PRESIDENT Colin Zhao

There are many more outsiders, such as Matt Bross, the global chief technology officer, The Vice President of Huawei’s equipment and consumer division and Abi Brogail, the chief user experience designer, who have not worked at Huawei for long.

But not all foreign executives have been staying in Chinese technology companies for long, and there are more stable conditions.

Typical of these are David Wallerstein, Tencent’s chief exploration official, who joined Tencent in 2001, Brent Irvin, vice president and general counsel of Tencent, who joined Tencent in 2010, and James Mitchell, who moved from Goldman Sachs to tencent as chief strategy officer in 2011.

Alibaba also has long-serving foreign executives, such as Michael Evans, Alibaba’s president, and Timothy A. STEINERT, the chief legal officer and company secretary, for five and 13 years, respectively.

It is worth noting, however, that most of these stable foreign executives are not at the centre of the business, but are mainly responsible for relatively marginalized departments such as overseas public relations and legal services, and are relatively low-key.

In the BAT Big Three, with the exception of James Mitchell, Tencent’s top decision-making body, the Executive Committee on Economic Development, Ali’s top organization, and Baidu’s top decision-making body, Estaff, are without foreign executives.

Ability not to OR water and soil?

Explaining why he left Xiaomi in 2017, Hugo Barra said of his health and family reasons: “I have realized that living in such a strange environment over the past few years has taken a huge toll on my life and has begun to affect my health. My friends, I think it’s home, and my life is still in Silicon Valley, which is closer to my family. “

But at the time, that explanation was not convincing enough, and there was a lot of speculation in the industry.

It is believed that Hugo Barra’s departure was due to the failure of his performance to meet expectations. According to Lei Jun, Xiaomi initially wanted to open up the Brazilian and Indian markets with Hugo Barra’s birth and growth in Brazil, but in the end the huge investment was minimal, when Xiaomi’s shipments in the Indian market were small and the Brazilian market was slow to show up, Xiaomi eventually stopped launching new products in The Brazilian market and withdrew from the team.

Overseas growth is not as good as expected, and Hugo Barra, who is in charge of overseas operations, is naturally to blame. Coupled with Xiaomi’s overall development difficulties, according to IDC data, in 2016 Q1 mobile phone market, Xiaomi fell out of the global shipments of the top five, to Q2, Xiaomi shipments of 10.5 million units, down 38.4% year-on-year.

In addition to the dominant factors of poor performance, foreign executives may have many hidden factors such as poor language, thinking patterns, corporate culture differences, and trust in the company.

It is understood that Wu Sili left NIO because NIO China and the United States team in various aspects of the long-term friction, such as language problems, jet lag problems, etc. led to poor communication, while NIO U.S. team is relatively independent, and more technically closed.

In 2014, when Ren Zhengfei faced the media, he talked about how to retain foreign employees and “airborne soldiers”, when Zhao Colin had just left Huawei Lightning, “Zhao Colin’s resignation was approved by me, and I was very hard to feel.” Because he can’t survive, there’s no condition to live, and we can’t hold him back.”

Ren Zhengfei frankly in Huawei has 40,000 foreign employees, most of whom are better adapted to scientists, but professional managers are difficult, “one came in to be overhead, because he encountered from the brother son of Shangganling, you are strong, he does not listen to you, how to do.” “

In 2019, Ren Zhengfei was asked in an interview with The Associated Press whether Huawei was considering bringing in foreign employees on the board of directors or appointing a foreign employee as the company’s CEO, saying that Huawei has two conditions for foreign employees to be CEOs, one is that it is necessary to have that ability, and the other must work at Huawei for 25 years, from the grass-roots level.

He believes that some Western company CEOs like “walking lights” change, a few times, the company will not. “Because the CEO doesn’t understand the reality at the grass-roots level, he thinks he can lead the company by drinking red wine and talking about philosophy. “

Kevin Mayer’s Opportunities and Challenges

For Kevin Mayer and Byte Dance, the franchise presents opportunities for both sides.

In Kevin Mayer’s eyes, ByteDance and TikTok are a rare opportunity with great potential as one of the most dynamic start-ups.

The data doesn’t lie, according to research firm Sensor Tower, which has seen 2 billion downloads worldwide since 2017 and is gaining momentum; in the first three months of 2020 alone, TikTok has 315 million downloads, the most per-quarter downloads ever.

Sensor Tower counts 315 million downloads for TikTok in the first quarter of 2020

Such a large amount of traffic means huge opportunities, such as games, music and other fields, TikTok due to some short video background music phenomenon-level spread, is also quietly changing the order of the music industry. Recently, Warner Music Group filed a prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States to formally launch an IPO, in which it specifically mentions the unique opportunities and new opportunities that TikTok has brought to the music industry.

But for Kevin Mayer, it’s both an opportunity and a challenge to drive ByteDance’s diverse businesses to a broader pace.

TikTok’s problems around the world are now divided into two main categories: increased competition in the industry and government regulation.

Now, TikTok has caught the alarm of Internet giants such as Facebook and google, and has spawned competitors.

Zuckerberg has said that TikTok is the first globally popular consumer Internet product developed by a Chinese tech giant, and in November 2018, Facebook launched A short video app like TikTok, which targets undeveloped markets such as TikTok in Mexico.

Google’s video site, YouTube, is also said to be adding short video content “Shorts” to rival TikTok by the end of the year, with Another photo-sharing app, Snapchat, listing TikTok as a competitor for the first time in a regulatory filing in 2019.

Even more serious is the issue of government regulation.

The U.S. government has repeatedly addressed TikTok over concerns about user privacy and data security. In November 2019, the U.S. government announced a national security review of ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Music.ly. Some U.S. government agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration, have asked employees to stop using TikTok; In addition, the FTC fined TikTok $5.7 million for allegedly illegally collecting the names, email addresses and addresses of minors under the age of 13.

In Indonesia, TikTok was banned from downloading because of “a lot of bad content that was bad for the growth of young children” until tikTok formed an Indonesian audit team and communicated with the government.

India, one of TikTok’s biggest markets, is also facing a crisis. In April 2019, TikTok was banned from downloading by the Indian government because of child pornography. Recently, TikTok was put to the fore in India for a video about the Acid Attacks, with some users even calling for TikTok to be banned in India on the grounds that there was a large amount of offending on the platform and calling for a low score.

At the end of 2019, reports suggested that ByteDance was considering spun off TikTok’s independent operations and sold a majority stake in response to the pressure, and reported that if ByteDance sold more than half of TikTok, it could raise as much as $10 billion. But the news was denied by ByteDance.

Hire a foreign CHIEF executive or help ByteDance solve some regulatory issues.

In the past, known as Disney’s “problem solver,” Kevin Mayer’s role as TikTok CEO seems unproblematic, and byteDance is trying to become a global company in terms of corporate climate.

In 2018, Mr. Zhang said ByteDance had set its vision as a “global platform for creativity and communication” in the hope of building a unified platform. He argues that globalization means recruiting global talent, “and we’ve also set up offices in many countries, with “TalentFirst” as a principle, giving priority to talent, wherever talent opens offices.” Local talent is very important when it’s localizing operations. “

In fact, byteDance has recruited a number of foreign executives from around the world in the last two years: Ole Obermann, Chief Business Development Digital Officer and Executive Vice President of Warner Music Group, joined ByteDance in October 2018 and Blake Chandle, global vice president of Facebook for about 10 years, joined ByteDance in June 2019. As Vice President of TikTok’s Global Commercialization Business, and in January 2020, Erich Andersen, Chief Intellectual Property Consultant of the Microsoft Group, joined ByteDance as Vice President of Legal Affairs.

So it seems like a good idea for Kevin Mayer to lead the group of foreign executives. As the industry has argued, Kevin Mayer’s strongest strength is not operational capabilities, but the integration of resources and strategic planning capabilities.