Charles Zhang was lucky: the Cultural Revolution ended just as he finished middle school. So he enrolled in Tsinghua, China’s most prestigious university. In 1986 he received a full scholarship from Nobel prize winning physicist, Lee Tsung-Dao to travel to the US and attend MIT.
His big break
Zhang discovered the internet early, and after graduating from MIT, he joined Internet Securities Inc and was sent to Beijing to set up its China operation. He saw the potential to build a Chinese internet search engine – in the mould of Yahoo! – and in 1996 he jumped ship to create Sohu. His portal quickly became a household name in China and listed on Nasdaq in 2000.
Need to know
Sohu is the second most popular portal in China (after Sina), and is used by millions of Chinese to read news, blog, visit chatrooms and send SMS messages. Zhang’s goal is to make it one of China’s premier media platforms. It made $46.9 million of net income in the first quarter, with a profit margin of 45%. But it hasn’t all been plain-sailing. After the dotcom crash, American directors of Sohu tried to remove Zhang. After three years of boardroom struggle he won out. China Business News reports he no longer has much time for American management theories.
In the news?
The 45 year-old just listed his online gaming firm, Changyou.com. It runs China’s third most popular game, Tian Long Ba Bu, and makes all its revenues from selling virtual goods (such as medicines to be used in the game). The Nasdaq IPO raised $120 million.
In his own words
“If I am ever asked to teach a course at Tsinghua, I will choose ‘meditation’.” Zhang is into Buddhism and yoga. He reckons that he will be able to live to 150 if he can rid his life of stress.
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