Tencent was under fire for its “copycat” products and was labeled by the public as the “king of knockoffs.” Ma knew Tencent needed a breakthrough product to save its reputation. Developed within just two months, Tencent introduced instant-messaging and social-media application WeChat to the public in 2011, around the same time China saw a drastic rise in smartphone sales and demand. WeChat even shook the money-transferring industry in 2014 when it offered a new feature that allowed users to send virtual red envelopes filled with money electronically, a convention that reflects upon age-old Chinese tradition. The payment service achieved explosive popularity, and with the help of WeChat, China has gradually become a cashless society.
Tencent’s timeline has experienced several points of near-bankruptcy and public disparagement, but Ma has successfully combatted adversity since co-founding the company in 1998. Today, Tencent has evolved into a tech behemoth worth over $500 billion, with services ranging from gaming and music to cloud-storage and video. Tencent has made significant initiatives to tap into international markets, which includes its 40% ownership of Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, and its 12% stake in Snap (SNAP), parent company of social-media app Snapchat.
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