Pony Ma, founder and CEO of Tencent, said his social media and gaming empire has long forgone an empire state of mind, and has started constructing an ecosystem to collaborate with and benefit outside partners.
“7 or 8 years ago, we weren’t that open and were having an empire state of mind. We wanted to control everything and not open to partnerships… We came to realize that once your company reached a certain scale there followed the further growth bottlenecks, and that’s the point when you’ll have to change the mindset and turn to the ecosystem approach,” said one of the richest Chinese tech execs at the Big Data Expo 2018 held in China’s southwestern city Guiyang.
What will Tencent do in that ecosystem? Pony Ma thinks only what is essential and fundamental. That’s why Tencent needs to streamline its businesses.
“If we can’t become the leader in one specific industry, we should partner with companies in that industry and support their development,” said Pony Ma. He then gave examples of WeChat QR Code, WeChat Pay, and Tencent Cloud, which are all services Tencent provides to partners in its ecosystem. “I think Tencent finds its right position when partners in the ecosystem appreciate the services provided by Tencent.”
In fact, Tencent didn’t want to become a tool provider in the first place. The tech behemoth has tried to expand to many domains. But as Pony Ma put it, Tencent couldn’t compete with companies in many domains, because they have already built their competitive edges, like Beijing Genomics Institute in healthcare. So Tencent has turned to link users with the best healthcare services through its super app WeChat, instead of trying to provide healthcare services by itself.
At the same time, by being open to partnerships, Tencent also provides opportunities for innovation and for companies to grow. “We’ve been partnering with lots of IT companies and we are partners instead of competitors. Tencent is not trying to take over their businesses but to provide better tools for them to excel themselves,” said Pony Ma, “That’s a lot of opportunities for startups.”