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TikTok CEO was an intern for rival Facebook: 'Working for a startup...'

Shou Zi Chew took over the CEO of TikTok in 2021 and oversaw its meteoric rise. In that year, the short video sharing app clocked 1 billion monthly users.

March 26, 2023 / 12:00 PM IST
Shou Zi Chew did a summer internship with Facebook in 2009, when he was a Harvard student. (Image credit:  Shou Zi Chew/LinkedIn)

Shou Zi Chew did a summer internship with Facebook in 2009, when he was a Harvard student. (Image credit: Shou Zi Chew/LinkedIn)

In the summer of 2009, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was interning, for none other than Facebook -- one of his platform's biggest competitors today.

Chew leads the short video sharing app whose popularity has exploded in recent years, leaving Facebook and Instagram scrambling to catch up.

During his tenure, TikTok became the most downloaded app in 2022, clocking 672 million downloads, according to consumer insights platform Statista. Its popularity has led Facebook to turn attention to short video content.

Interestingly, Chew has history with Facebook. He took up a summer internship with the company, while studying at Harvard Business School.

“I was working for a startup that summer," Chew was quoted as saying on the alumni website. “It was called Facebook.”

After graduating from Harvard, Singapore-born Chew started as partner at the Hong Kong-based DST Investment Management, one the world's biggest investment firms.

After five years at DST, he moved to China to serve as consumer electronics giant Xiaomi's director and international president.

He stayed there for nearly five years and then joined TikTok as its CEO.

TikTok has enjoyed immense success, attaining a billion monthly users in 2021.

But the app, owned by Chinese corporation ByteDance, has also landed in political controversies. It has been banned from government devices in Canada and EU countries. India has placed a nationwide ban on it.

In the US, TikTok faces the possibility of a ban, with lawmakers alleging it poses a threat to national security, besides carrying mental health risks.

Potential TikTok ban sends advertisers scrambling

This week, TikTok's CEO was grilled by American lawmakers about the app's links with China.

"ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government and is a private company," Chew told lawmakers during his testimony. "We believe what's needed are clear transparent rules that apply broadly to all tech companies -- ownership is not at the core of addressing these concerns."

The US administration will have to approach the TikTok ban carefully, as it will be blocking 150 million Americans from their favourite app.

first published: Mar 26, 2023 10:16 am