You probably don’t know the name Jia Yueting.
But you will soon.
With his upcoming electric car, Jia is set to become the Chinese Elon Musk.
Like Musk, he doesn’t have an automotive background — he’s made his fortune in technology.
When Jia got his first tech job at age 22, it was modest enough.
According to Bloomberg, he was maintaining the internal network for a county taxation office in Shanxi, a coal-producing province in the north of the People’s Republic.
But he quit in less than a year to found a tech consultancy.
In 2002, Jia founded a telecom startup, Sinotel Technologies. He took it public in five short years.
Jia founded yet another company in 2004 — Leshi Internet Information & Technology. He took that internet television purveyor public in 2010. Jia holds a 44% stake in the company, Bloomberg reports, and it’s worth a hefty $US2.3 billion.
That makes him a new billionaire with enough money to bankroll an electric car company, if Musk’s story with Tesla is any indication.
In December, Jia revealed that Leshi had spent the year developing a plan to launch an electric car, one that will directly take on the Model S. His background has given him training in “managing disruptive change,” he said, and so taking on Tesla is well within Leshi’s range.
Jia seems to be getting some assistance from the Chinese government, just as Tesla received crucial support from the White House. Beijing is saying it will give car manufacturing licenses to non-automobile companies like Leshi to cut down on China’s notoriously polluted air and encourage homegrown Tesla competitors.
The stakes are high. China is the largest auto market in the world, and while market growth slowed to 7% in 2014, it continues to get bigger. An estimated 17 million passenger vehicles were sold there in 2014.
The country looks to be crucial for Tesla — Musk has previously said that he expects Chinese Tesla sales to match US sales by the end of 2015 — but there appears to be friction. In December, Tesla’s China president resigned after less than nine months on the job. Now Musk is going to have to take on his Chinese doppelgänger, too.
Jia looks like a worthy — and determined — opponent. Making an electric vehicle “is our dream and passion,” he told Bloomberg. “Look at China’s skies, all responsible corporate citizens want to do something about it. This is the truth.”
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