From Facebook intern to TikTok CEO: Who is Singaporean Chew Shou Zi?

Chew Shou Zi joined ByteDance as chief financial officer in March 2021 before being appointed TikTok’s chief executive in May that year. - SCREENGRAB FROM SHOU.TIME/TIKTOK

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): He was once an intern at Facebook. Today, Singaporean Chew Shou Zi is the chief executive of popular social media app TikTok.

On Thursday (March 23), Chew, 40, will testify before the United States’ House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He is set to face tough scrutiny over TikTok’s data practices and alleged links with the Chinese authorities. The US lawmakers are assessing whether TikTok is a national security threat.

Here is what we know about him.

Where did he study?

Born and bred in Singapore, he is fluent in English and Chinese. His father reportedly worked in construction and his mother in bookkeeping.

Chew is a Hwa Chong alumnus and was an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces during his national service.

After completing NS, he attended University College London and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He stayed on in London to work as a banker for the Goldman Sachs Group.

In 2010, he went to Harvard Business School to study for a master of business administration (MBA) and interned at Facebook when the social media platform was still a start-up. Facebook went public in mid-2012.

When did he join TikTok?

In March 2021, he joined TikTok’s parent company, China-based ByteDance, as its first chief financial officer (CFO).

In May that year, he was appointed TikTok’s chief executive.

TikTok’s former chief executive, Kevin Mayer, had left Walt Disney for the position in May 2020 but quit after three months as the company faced pressure from US lawmakers over security risks.

ByteDance founder and chief executive Zhang Yiming praised Chew at that time, saying that he “brings deep knowledge to the company and industry, having led a team that was among our earliest investors and having worked in the technology sector for a decade”.

Chew runs TikTok from offices in Singapore, but he travels frequently, especially to the US, said The Wall Street Journal.

The global company has offices in cities such as London, New York and Tokyo.

Under his leadership, TikTok became one of the biggest Chinese tech success stories in the world.

Where did he work previously?

After two years working as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in Britain and his internship at Facebook in the US, Chew joined venture capital firm DST Global, founded by billionaire Silicon Valley investor Yuri Milner.

At DST Global, he led a team that became early investors in ByteDance in 2013.

His interest in the tech sector drew him to Xiaomi, and in 2015, he became CFO of the Chinese smartphone giant.

During his time there, Xiaomi went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2018, making it the third-most valuable publicly traded smartphone maker, behind Apple and Samsung.

Chew became Xiaomi’s international business president in 2019.

Is he married?

While studying at Harvard Business School (HBS), he met Taiwanese-American Vivian Kao. They later got married and now have two children. She is currently a chief executive for an investment firm.

According to the HBS’ alumni page, the couple met over e-mail in 2008 after they enrolled in the school.

They have been described as “a couple who often finish each other’s sentences”.

They have been giving back to their alma mater consistently as volunteers and donors since they graduated, and by taking part in fund-raising efforts.

“We want to benefit as many people as possible with our support,” said Chew.

“We want the leadership of HBS to decide where to allocate our contributions. We believe the school has the ability to amplify what we contribute.”

After graduating with MBAs, the couple lived in various cities, including London and Hong Kong. They continued to keep in touch with their classmates.

Does he have a TikTok account?

In February 2022, Mr Chew set up his own TikTok account, @shou.time. To date, he has 22 posts and more than 18,000 followers.

His account on the platform features glimpses of his personal life, showing him attending the Super Bowl in February, eating Nashville hot chicken and meeting celebrities such as Hollywood actor Bill Murray.

Chew said at The New York Times’ 2022 DealBook Summit that he does not allow his children – whose ages are unknown – to use the app as “they’re too young for that”.

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Singapore , TikTok , CEO , Chew Shou Zi


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