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Meet Shou Zi Chew, TikTok's 41-year-old CEO who's back in the spotlight

shou zi chew tiktok ceo
Shou Zi Chew is the face of TikTok's effort to stay up and running in the US.Kin Cheung/AP
  • TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is pleading with users to fight calls for a ban of the social media app.

  • He's 41 years old, went to Harvard Business School, and interned at Facebook when it was a startup.

  • Here's what else we know about him.

TikTok is under a lot of scrutiny right now.

US lawmakers worry the video-sharing platform, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, poses a danger to national security. The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would force any company owned by a "foreign adversary" to divest or sell to a US-based company within 180 days in order to keep operating in the US.

Now, TikTok faces a potential ban or forced sale, and President Joe Biden has said he would sign it into law if it passes the senate.

So who's leading the company through this turbulent period?

That would be Shou Zi Chew, TikTok's 41-year-old CEO from Singapore, who got his start as an intern at Facebook.

Here's a rundown on TikTok's head honcho:

Chew worked for Facebook when it was still a startup.

facebook mark zuckerberg
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, before he took his company public.Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

He earned his bachelor's degree in economics at the University College London before heading to Harvard Business School for his MBA in 2010.

While a student there, Chew worked for a startup that "was called Facebook," he said in a post on Harvard's Alumni website. Facebook went public in mid-2012.

 

Chew met his now-wife, Vivian Kao, via email when they were both students at Harvard.

Shou Zi Chew and Vivian Kao attend The 2022 Met Gala
Shou Zi Chew and Vivian Kao attend The 2022 Met Gala.Theo Wargo/WireImage

They are "a couple who often finish each other's sentences," according to the school's alumni page, and have three kids.

Chew was CFO of Xiaomi before joining Bytedance.

Shou Zi Chew and Xiaomi CEO give thumbs up at the listing of Xiaomi at the Hong Kong Exchanges on July 9, 2018
Shou Zi Chew and Xiaomi's CEO give thumbs up at the listing of Xiaomi at the Hong Kong Exchanges on July 9, 2018REUTERS/Bobby Yip

He became chief financial officer of the Chinese smartphone giant, which competes with Apple, in 2015. Chew helped secure crucial financing and led the company through its 2018 public listing, which would become one of the nation's largest tech IPOs in history.

He became Xiaomi's international business president in 2019, too.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in Washington, DC on Tuesday February 14, 2023.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in Washington, DC on Tuesday, February 14, 2023.Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images.

Before joining Xiaomi, Chew also worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for two years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He also worked at investment firm DST, founded by billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner, for five years. It was during his time there in 2013 that he led a team that became early investors in ByteDance, as the Business Chief and The Independent reported.

For a while, Chew was both the CEO of TikTok and the CFO of its parent company, ByteDance.

zhang yiming bytedance
ByteDance founder Zhang YimingZheng Shuai/VCG via Getty Images

Chew joined ByteDance's C-suite in March 2021, the first person to fill the role of chief financial officer at the media giant.

He was named CEO of TikTok that May at the same time as Vanessa Pappas was named COO. Bytedance founder and former CEO Zhang Yiming said at the time that Chew "brings deep knowledge of the company and industry, having led a team that was among our earliest investors, and having worked in the technology sector for a decade."

That November, it was announced that Chew would leave his role as ByteDance's CFO to focus on running TikTok.

TikTok's former CEO, Kevin Mayer, had left Walt Disney for the position in May 2020 and quit after three months as the company faced pressure from lawmakers over security concerns.

Some government officials in the US and other countries remain concerned that TikTok's user data could be shared with the Chinese government.

Biden
The Biden administration has demanded that TikTok divest its American business from ByteDance or risk being banned.Jacquelyn Martin, Pool

Former President Donald Trump's administration issued executive orders designed to force ByteDance into divesting its TikTok US operations, though nothing ever happened.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in June 2021 that threw out Trump's proposed bans on the app.

Last year, the Biden administration reportedly demanded TikTok divest its American business from its Chinese parent company, or else risk being banned in the US. In response, Chew said such a divestment wouldn't solve officials' security concerns surrounding TikTok.

In a TikTok last March, Chew announced the company has amassed 150 million monthly active users in the US and broached the subject of the ban threats.

Shou Zi Chew, TikTok's CEO
Chew took to TikTok to discuss the ban threats.TikTok

"Some politicians have started talking about banning TikTok," he said. "Now this could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you."

Chew testified before Congress that month about the company's privacy and data security practices.

Wall Street said his testimony didn't do much to help his case to keep TikTok alive in the US, though Chew seemed to win over many TikTok users, with some applauding his efforts and even making flattering fancam edits of him.

Now, Chew is in the spotlight again as the US takes a step toward a potential TikTok ban.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday, March 23, 2023.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday, March 23, 2023.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a bill on March 13 that would require any company owned by a "foreign adversary" to divest or sell to a US-based company within 180 days to avoid being banned in the US.

Chew put out a video response shortly after, asking users to "make your voices heard" and "protect your constitutional rights" by voicing opposition to lawmakers.

He called the vote "disappointing" and said the company has invested in improving data security and keeping the platform "free from outside manipulation."

"This bill gives more power to a handful of other social media companies," he added. "It will also take billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses. It will put more than 300,000 American jobs at risk."

The bill heads to the Senate next. President Biden has said he'll sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

When he's not fighting efforts to ban TikTok, Chew makes appearances at some pretty high-profile events.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew departs after Congress Testimony
Shou Zi Chew leaves Congress on March 23.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

He's been seen at the Met Gala, and also posted about attending the 2023 Super Bowl and even Taylor Swift's Eras Tour.

His hobbies include playing video games like Clash of Clans and Diablo IV, golfing, and reading about theoretical physics.

Read the original article on Business Insider