Say the name Pony Ma and heads nod in recognition around the globe. The founder and CEO of Tencent has turned his company into a multinational conglomerate with interests in multiple tech sectors. Despite being one of the wealthiest people in the world, Pony Ma remains a deeply private individual. Let’s take a look at 10 things you didn’t know about the Chinese tech tycoon.

1. He Has a Passion for Astronomy

While Pony Ma is known for his business acumen, many are surprised to learn of his passion for astronomy. As a young student, his dream was to become an astronomer. This love of the stars still plays an important role in Ma’s life and he is reported to have built an astronomical telescope during his time at university.

While this passion may seem unrelated to his tech career, it showcases Ma’s dedication to exploration and discovery. His curious nature, driven by a love for learning, is undoubtedly a contributing factor to his immense success in the fast-paced world of technology.

2. His Real Name is Ma Huateng

Pony Ma is known by his nickname, but his birth name is Ma Huateng. He was born in 1971 in Dongfang, Hainan Province, China. The nickname “Pony” comes from a direct translation of his last name – Ma means horse in Chinese.

Despite the global recognition his nickname has achieved, Ma still remains deeply rooted in his Chinese heritage. This is evident in his philanthropic efforts, where much of his donations go towards improving living standards in China and supporting Chinese technological advancements.

3. He Started Tencent with a Small Team

Every successful business starts from humble beginnings and Tencent is no exception. Back in 1998, Ma and his team of three associates started Tencent in a small space in Shenzhen, China. The company’s first product was the iconic messaging service, QQ, which fast became a popular communication tool across China.

The success of QQ positioned Tencent as a key player in the Chinese tech industry. From there, the team expanded the company’s operations, venturing into online gaming, social networking, and e-commerce. Today, Tencent is one of the largest and most successful tech companies in the world.

4. He is Known for His Humility

Despite his immense success, Pony Ma is renowned for his humility. He avoids the public limelight and is known for his quiet demeanour. In the few public appearances he makes, Ma often stresses the importance of maintaining humility and focusing on innovation above fame or fortune.

His humble nature extends into his private life as well. According to those close to Ma, he lives a relatively simple and modest life, preferring to allocate the majority of his wealth towards philanthropy and company expansion.

5. He Prioritizes Content over Platform

A unique aspect of Ma’s strategy with Tencent is his focus on content. While other tech giants race to develop platforms, Ma maintains that user-centric content is the key to a successful business. This is evident in Tencent’s plethora of services which largely centered around user experiences and interaction.

With WeChat, China’s most-used app, Tencent has successfully integrated services such as online payments, social networking, and e-commerce into one platform. This all-in-one approach not only offers convenience but also enhances user engagement, showcasing Ma’s insightful emphasis on content.

6. He Avoids Speaking English in Public

Pony Ma, though internationally known, rarely speaks English in public. Despite being fairly proficient in the language, Ma prefers to use Mandarin during public and media interaction. This preference demonstrates his dedication to maintaining his Chinese cultural heritage.

By opting to use his native language, Ma ensures that he accurately communicates his ideas and does not lose any meaning through translation. This level of consideration not only reflects his thorough nature but also his commitment to authenticity.

7. He Admires Pixar

Pony Ma has voiced his admiration for the American animation studio Pixar. Being in the technology and entertainment business himself, he appreciates the studio for its creativity and innovation in combining technology and art into memorable storytelling.

Under Ma’s leadership, Tencent has made significant strides in its own animation and entertainment divisions. This includes investments in various animation studios and game development companies both in China and abroad, a clear reflection of his admiration for the likes of Pixar.

8. He is One of Asia’s Top Philanthropists

With great wealth comes great responsibility, and Pony Ma lives up to that mantra. He is known as one of the teeming philanthropists in Asia. He and his family had donated millions to health, education, and environmental projects throughout China and abroad.

In 2016, Ma announced that he would be donating $2 billion worth of Tencent shares to a charitable foundation. This act of immense generosity only underscores his commitment to using his wealth for the greater good.

9. He is a Huge Fan of Nature Documentaries

When Pony Ma is not leading one of the world’s most powerful tech companies, he can be found indulging in nature documentaries. He admires how these films artfully combine the realms of science, exploration, and storytelling.

His love for nature documentaries influenced the creation of Tencent’s Penguin Pictures. Under this venture, Tencent developed a documentary unit focused on producing high-quality nature and wildlife documentaries, further bridging the gap between technology and cinematic storytelling.

10. He Has a Reputation for Being Tight-Lipped

For a man with so much influence and affluence, Pony Ma has a surprisingly small public footprint. He has a reputation for being tight-lipped and rarely gives media interviews. His elusive nature adds to the mystery that surrounds him, further amplifying the public’s fascination with his success and leadership.

The same applies to Tencent’s major company decisions and expansions, with Pony Ma and his executives being notoriously conservative when it comes to revealing future plans. This tight-lipped strategy cultivates an air of suspense and intrigue around Tencent, keeping the market and consumers eagerly awaiting their next move.

For a deeper dive into the life of Pony Ma and Tencent’s strategies, check out these resources:

Forbes Profile – Pony Ma
South China Morning Post – How Pony Ma became China’s Richest Man
Bloomberg – Low Profile Billionaire: Pony Ma