Alibaba, Foxconn, Xiaomi, and Qatar and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds have backed the meteoric rise of He’s company, founded after he turned previous venture UCWeb into one of the most popular mobile browsers in China.
On August 27, shares of Xpeng Motors – one of several Chinese rivals to Tesla – soared 41 per cent at its New York Stock Exchange debut. Backed by Xiaomi and the Alibaba Group (owner of the South China Morning Post), the Chinese electric carmaker is headed by co-founder, chairman and CEO He Xiaopeng, who achieved start-up success earlier in his career after co-founding a Chinese mobile browser company.
He is now one of the richest men in the global auto industry, owning Xpeng shares worth US$4.2 billion, based on figures in the company’s prospectus. So how did the Chinese entrepreneur earn his billions?
Born in Hubei province in 1977, He graduated from the South China University of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1999.
He worked at software company AsiaInfo Tech until 2004 when he and Liang Jie jointly founded UCWeb, now one of the most popular mobile browsers in China and Indonesia. He was responsible for the company’s product strategy and R&D, and in 2011, his team developed the first proprietary technology for the mobile browser industry in China.
UCWeb was acquired by internet giant Alibaba Group for US$4.3 billion a decade after its launch, propelling He to billionaire status. From 2014 until August 2017, He served as a senior executive of the Alibaba Mobile Business division.
In 2014, He backed Henry Xia and He Tao, who have immense expertise in automotive technology and R&D, in founding Xpeng Motors.
The company received initial investment from prominent Chinese and international investors, including Lei Jun (Xiaomi’s founder), Alibaba, Foxconn and IDG Capital, to develop autonomous driving technology and machine learning.
In August 2017, He was appointed full-time chairman of Xpeng. The following year, Xpeng Motors released its first production model, the Xpeng G3 intelligent mini-SUV, to positive reviews. The company’s second model, the P7 four-door electric sedan, premiered at the 2019 Auto Shanghai show and began deliveries this summer.
From July to August 2020, Xpeng raised around US$900 million from a group of prominent investors, including Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital China, Alibaba, Qatar Investment Authority and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.
With its recent IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, the six-year-old company’s market capitalisation now sits at nearly US$15 billion. Whatever the rest of the year brings, He is sure to have vaulted up the Forbes China Rich List from his 2019 position of 331, when his net worth was a paltry US$1.17 billion.