By the young age of 40, Ma has become extremely successful in the dot-com sphere and very influential amongst Chinese business. He is the founder and CEO of Tencent, Inc., a successful Chinese Internet company. He is more often recognized by his nickname—Pony. Ma was born on October 29, 1971 in the southern island of Hainan and moved to Shenzhen as a teen. He has had many accomplishments so far and in 2010, he came in at number 18 on Fortune 500, 40 under 40 list.
Pony received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Shenzhen University in 1993. Since then he has kept busy as he continues to build on his 18+ years of experience in the telecommunication and Internet industries.
After college, Pony initially joined China Motion Telecom Development Limited, a Chinese telecommunications service and product provider. During his time with the company, he was in charge of research and development for the Internet paging system.
After leaving the company, he became inspired by early instant-messaging programs. In 1998, Ma ventured off alongside a childhood friend to create and launch their own service, which they named QQ. At first, Ma focused solely on text messaging, but soon after, he was able to transform Tencent into a Chinese answer to America Online’s AIM, giving its users the ability to contact one another instantly while online.
The name QQ was then used to name Tencent’s official mascot, a chubby penguin, and was quickly developed into a branding tool for the company. Within no time, students across China recognized the mascot and were paying to adopt their own online personalities through “avatar” cartoon characters. Once he had a established a loyal audience, Pony then went on to add paid services like gaming and online dating on the site. Within the first six months after these other services were added, Pony quickly saw the increase of sales by 78% and to a staggering $788 million.
Currently, Pony continues to oversee the strategic development, overall direction and business management of the company. It is estimated that Ma’s stake is now worth $3.6 billion. In 2005, Forbes named him the 68th richest person in China, and in 2007 Time called him one of the world’s most influential people. Ma’s latest adventure consists of the recent partnership with U.S. based discount site, Groupon.