“Life, Death, or Tencent” is the phrase many Chinese startup companies mutter when discussing their future prospects. Often colored as knock against the 3rd largest company in the world, it is also bears a certain amount of respect toward the company and the man that has together managed to become the single largest influencer of the Internet space in China. Grown from a meager startup in the late 1990’s to one of the world’s largest companies, Pony Ma has been at the head of this movement since its conception. He, along with other Internet leaders, will address the world at Global Mobile Internet Conference 2012 this May.
Pony Ma is one of the original founders of Tencent and currently serves as the Executive Director, Chairman of the Board, and Chief Executive Officer of Tencent. Pony oversees the strategic development, overall direction and business management of the Group. Before he founded Tencent in 1998, Pony was in charge of R&D for Internet paging system development at China Motion Telecom Development Limited, a telecommunications services and products provider in China. Pony received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from Shenzhen University in 1993.
Profits for Tencent in 2011 totaled 1.6 billion USD, up 26% year to year. So what does Tencent do to turn these kinds of profits? It provides Internet and mobile phone value-added services such as social networks, web portals, e-commerce, and online games. Tencent QQ was the instant messenger services that launched Tencent into its dominion of the Chinese Internet space. It currently has more than 650 million active users which makes it the largest online community in the world.
On more modern fronts, Weixin, a mobile communication app, has become extremely popular, even threatening to change the landscape of mobile communication in China. As such, the development team behind it are seen as rock stars amongst the Chinese developer community.
Pony’s appearance at GMIC2012 will hopefully make up for his sudden absence at GMIC2011. Members of the Weixin team are also expected to be on hand for the event.
As far as what we are expecting to hear, we believe that Pony will be discussing how he envisions Weixin will reshape communication in China. We also expect Pony to announce some new international moves. Finally, Pony will probably bring to the table Tencent’s inniative to foster and grow startups within the Chinese developer community.
Tencent is starting to show signs of acknowleging that it isn’t healthy to outright compete in every Internet and mobile innovation – it only needs to control key choke points. Like a general realizing his army has found itself spread too thin, Pony is beginning to re-position his troops into locations where they can control the industry without occupying the entire battlefield. A move that would make Sun Tzu proud.
Speaking of battlefields, given that Sina’s Charles Chao will be on hand, it will be interesting to see the two jockey for position in regards to their competing products — shareholders will be watching, and that means millions could be at stake.