When Tencent started in 1998, the Internet’s first wave was cresting, and some thought it had peaked in reach and importance. But the Internet was only getting started. Today, 3 billion people are connected across a broad range of digital devices.
Pony Ma deserves a lot of credit for that growth, and for helping shift the perception of China from being skilled at replication to being a global leader in innovation. Pony took AOL’s highly successful instant-messenger service, ICQ, changed some letters in its name and launched it as QQ in China. It was an overnight success, and it set the stage for Tencent’s rapid rise. In doing so, Pony brought the world’s most powerful medium for connecting people to the world’s most populous country.
There is still a long way to go in terms of the Chinese people having full access to, and full benefit of, the Internet. But we are still only at the dawn of the Internet era, with the ultimate transformational power of the Internet’s third wave still ahead—and it is clear that Pony is going to play a major role in shaping that future.
Case, who co-founded AOL, is the CEO of Revolution