ByteDance’s CEO And Co-Founder To Step Down

CEO and co-founder of TikTok’s owner ByteDance will step down – explaining he is not very social and lacks interest in managing people

CEO and co-founder of TikTok’s owner ByteDance, Zhang Yiming, has announced he is to step down and hand over the reins to fellow co-founder Rubo Liang.

Yiming revealed his intention in an internal letter to staff, which has been published by the firm. In the letter Yiming explained he was not a social person and had no interest in actually managing people.

This is not the first management change at Beijing-based ByteDance and TikTok. In August last year, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer stepped down after just two months in charge, amid a legal tussle with the US government after former President Donald Trump signed an executive order to prohibit US companies from carrying out TikTok-related deals with ByteDance.

Internal letter

Mayer stepping down was a surprise move at the time, but ByteDance’s Yiming took his time to explain his reasons for stepping aside, and said that the change in leadership will take place over the next six months in order to ensure a smooth transition.

“After several months of thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that transitioning out of the role of CEO, with all of the related day-to-day responsibilities, would enable me to have greater impact on longer-term initiatives,” said Yiming.

“Three years ago, I spoke with some entrepreneurs about the challenges of scaling a business,” he said. “ I said that often when companies mature and expand, many fall into the trap of the CEO becoming overly central.”

“In order to avoid this trap, I gradually came to a decision over the last six months to take on a new role at ByteDance,” he said. “I believe I can best challenge the limits of what the company can achieve over the next decade, and drive innovation, by drawing on my strengths of highly-focused learning, systematic thought, and a willingness to attempt new things.

And Yiming was brutally honest about his personal reasons for stepping down from leading the firm.

“The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager,” he wrote. “I’m more interested in analysing organisational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people,” he wrote.

“Similarly, I’m not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible,” he added.


His co-founder of ByteDance, Rubo Liang, has taken on numerous critical roles at ByteDance at different times, including head of R&D, Lark and Efficiency Engineering, and most recently, Human Resources and Management.

“Since Day 1, Rubo has been an invaluable partner – completing my coding for new systems, buying and installing servers, and developing key recruitment and corporate policies and management systems, among a list of contributions too long to enumerate,” wrote Yiming. “Over the next six months we will work side by side to ensure the smoothest possible transition, and I know you will all also support him.”

Yiming said that after handing over his role as CEO, and removing himself from the responsibilities of daily management, he will have the space to explore long-term strategies, organisational culture and social responsibility, “with a more objective perspective on the company.”

ByteDance bought Shanghai-based in 2017 and used it as the basis for TikTok, which became the first Chinese social media app to become broadly popular in the US.