Tencent had partnered with leading mobile carriers like China Mobile to receive 40 percent of the SMS charges that QQ users racked up when they sent messages to mobile phones. A new service could hurt Tencent’s financial bottom line and at the same time risk its relationships with some of China’s most powerful companies. It was the sort of decision that publicly traded, ten-thousand-person companies typically refer to a committee for further study. But Ma wasn’t a typical corporate executive. That very night, he gave Zhang the go-ahead to pursue the idea. Zhang put together a ten-person team, including seven engineers, to build and launch the new product. In just two months, Zhang’s small team had built a mobile-first social messaging network with a clean, minimalistic design that was the polar opposite of QQ. Ma named the service Weixin, which means “micromessage” in Mandarin. Outside of China, the service became known as WeChat. What came next was staggering. Just sixteen months after Zhang’s fateful late-night message to Ma, WeChat celebrated its one hundred millionth user. Six months after that, it had grown to two hundred million users. Four months after that, it had grown to three hundred million users. Pony Ma’s late-night bet paid off handsomely. Tencent reported 2016 revenues of $ 22 billion, up 48 percent from the previous year, and up nearly 700 percent since 2010, the year before WeChat’s launch. By early 2018, Tencent reached a market capitalization of over $ 500 billion, making it one of the world’s most valuable companies, and WeChat was one of the most widely and intensively used services in the world. Fast Company called WeChat “China’s app for everything,” and the Financial Times reported that more than half of its users spend over ninety minutes a day using the app. To put WeChat in an American context, it’s as if one single service combined the functions of Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Venmo, Grubhub, Amazon, Uber, Apple Pay, Gmail, and even Slack into a single megaservice. You can use WeChat to do run-of-the-mill things like texting and calling people, participating in social media, and reading articles, but you can also book a taxi, buy movie tickets, make doctors’ appointments, send money to friends, play games, pay your rent, order dinner for the night, plus so much more. All from a single app on your smartphone.
Reid Hoffman (Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies)