The bustling Chinese tech industry is already one of the largest and most influential in the world and growing by the day. This is just another aspect of the immense influence China has on our modern, global world as an economic and political power. But China’s tech industry could not stand without the vision and wisdom of a handful of entrepreneurs who have shaped the sector in the Middle Kingdom.
One such examples is Zhou Hongyi, the founder and chairman of Qihoo 360; a giant tech security company. Zhou was born in Huanggang, a city in the Hubei province of China, before his family moved to Zhengzhou in the Henan province, where Zhou spent most of his childhood. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Software in 1992 and went on to earn a Master’s degree in System Engineering in 1995 from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China.
Hongyi has been a prominent figure in the Chinese tech industry since he founded 3721 in 1998, but his breakthrough and positioning as one of China’s most influential tech figures came with the foundation of Qihoo 360 in 2006. This positioned Hongyi as the 45th richest man in China and the 135th in 2018 according to Forbes, with an estimated net worth of $4.7 billion.
Before founding Qihoo 360 in 2006, and after selling 3721 to Yahoo! for $120 million, he became CEO of Yahoo China in 2004. At the same time, Hongyi was funding companies as an angel investor and funded a number of successful startups.
Hongyi is an interesting figure to say the least. In China, he is perceived as a role model for success, especially being “self-made”, and many young entrepreneurs look up to him for mentoring and inspiration. Hongyi has been lauded with numerous awards and accolades throughout his prolific career, including: “New Economic Figure in the Next 10 Years” by CEO magazine & CIO magazine in 2010, “2014 China Internet Person of the Year“ in 2015 and “2017 Top Ten Economic Person of the Year“ in 2018.
This success is mainly owed to Zhou’s resourcefulness and adaptability, which allows his exceptional horizontal management style. Hongyi is known to listen to his subordinates and give them an equal opportunity regardless of their position in the company, a strategy which is a source of innovation and growth in the company. Hongyi once stated: “My biggest strength is that I listen. I'll change right away if I realize I was wrong. Even a junior employee can overturn my decision. I am impatient and can be too harsh on employees, but many of them have been willing to stay with me for more than ten years. Maybe it's because they think they've learned something from me “. Many believe this is the main drive behind Qihoo’s success.
Qihoo’s standing as a leading company in the Chinese tech industry does not mean it has not been a bumpy road at times. Some controversies it has been involved in have had the potential to tarnish both the company’s and Zhou’s impeccable reputation. In this sense, the company has engaged in legal cases with other Chinese tech giants over the years such as Baidu, Tencent and Yahoo China, which also show Hongyi’s assertive character. With that said, the question remains, of much more successful could Qhioo be if it would not have got involved in these cases?
At the moment, Qihoo has an ongoing litigation against a Hong Kong-based hedge fund taking place in the Cayman Islands.