The number of billionaires in China skyrocketed in only a year's time from 79 in 2009 to 128 in 2010, according to Forbes. The country has the second largest population of billionaires in the world; only the United States has more. Among this group of China's "new rich" are those who have made their money through tech ventures that range from social networks to on-demand video streaming. (This emerging market is making strides in regulation and disclosure. Check out Investing In China.)
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The Stanford Business School and University of California at Berkeley graduate is the founder and CEO of Youku, an online video site that is a mix between Hulu and Youtube for the China market. In December 2010, the value of Youku soared to 3.3 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and continues to rise. The company is worth more than AOL which has a market cap of 2.5 billion.
By developing China's answer to Google, Li has doubled his wealth in the past two years. His Baidu search engine has deposited $3.5 billion in his bank account. The 41-year-old lives in Bejiing with his wife Melissa Ma, but he learned about the business of online search in Silicon Valley in the '90s as an engineer for Infoseek, one of the first internet search companies.
It pays to play for Tianqiao. As the founder of an online game company, the 37-year-old is a self-made billionaire with a net worth of $1.2 billion based on Forbes statistics. The firm, called Shanda Interactive, also produces and distributes movies. He earned a bachelor degree in economics from Fudan University in Shanghai, the same city in which he resides. Tianqiao landed a spot on Forbes' list of the World's Billionaires for the first time in 2010.
He's the leader for one of China's top online gaming sites now, but Yuzhu hasn't always been so fortunate. His first try in the gaming industry, a video game company called Zhuhai Giant Hi-Tech Group, found success in the early '90s, but was overtaken by massive debts. He got back on his feet in 2005 with ZTgame and now boasts a $1.6 billion fortune.
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With his e-commerce website Alibaba, online auction service Taobao.com and operation duties for China's Yahoo! web portal, entrepreneur Ma has made a name for himself in the tech world. His company made an estimated $700 million in revenue in 2010. Ma has expanded his company to 22,000 employees in offices across Greater China, India, Japan, Korea, Europe and the United States since founding it in 1999. Business Week named him one of the 25 Most Influential People on the web.
In the early 2000s, Ding held the distinction of China's richest man when the value of stock in his internet portal Netease exploded. By 2010, he wasn't even in the top 10 of the country's wealthiest people. However, 38-year-old Ding still has a sizeable estimated net worth of $2.2 billion and is a successful online game developer. His company holds one of China's top 10 most downloaded game titles, and is the distributor of the World of Warcraft game series for mainland China. (FDI accounted for 30% of industrial output, 55% of trade and 11% of urban jobs in China in 2009. For more related reading, see Top 6 Factors That Drive Investment In China.)
Talk isn't always cheap. Just ask Huateng, CEO and founder, of a popular chat service in China called Tencent. The company has 500 million active users and has increased its profits 65% since 2009. His instant message platform, which integrates online gaming and e-commerce services, has earned him a net worth of $3.6 billion before the age of 40.
The Bottom Line
In a country that has made headlines for its government's internet censorship policies, it might come as a surprise that several of China's new billionaires are building wealth through companies that are based on internet services. They are not only creating innovative technology, but competing with and in some cases surpassing their American counterparts. (Find out how this invention contributed to the development and evolution of the U.S. economy. See From The Printing Press To The Internet.)
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