I Visited Tencent, A Giant Chinese Internet Company Based In A Huge City That Didn't Exist 35 Years Ago

With a market capitalisation of $US107 billion, Chinese Internet company Tencent is bigger than Yahoo, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined.

And yet, you probably know very little about it.

It was the same with me until a week or so ago.

That’s when I flew from Beijing to Shenzhen in the southeast of China, and paid Tencent a visit.

Disclaimer: I was only in Beijing because Tencent paid for me to fly to China to be on a panel. I paid for my aeroplane ticket to Shenzhen, however.

After a 3 hour, 1215 mile flight from Beijing, I landed in Shenzhen

I could tell right away that the place had a hazy, polluted look

The airport could have been any major market airport in the US

(Except the luggage carts were free)

Outside, a Tencent representative joined me and we grabbed a cab.

We drove through Shenzhen.

Shenzhen is on the southeast of China, very close to Hong Kong and Macau

Until 1979, Shenzhen was just a sleepy fishing village.

Then China's government designated it a 'Special Economic Zone,' allowing foreign investment

Now it's a major city, with 10 million people and GDP of $US175 billion

In the past few years, it's become known as the place where Apple gadgets are made by Foxconn

That's a horse statue, leaping out of a glass tower.

My local guide told me young people covet Foxconn jobs, because they pay more and have longer hours

But I wasn't in Shenzhen to see Foxconn

Like these student visitors, I was here to see Tencent.

That's the Tencent tower. Different than the Googleplex, eh?

This is the atrium where I entered the building.

Tencent was founded in 1998.

It's biggest success is a massively popular Web portal, QQ.com.

But it also has a search engine called Soso.com

Lately, Tencent's biggest hit has been messaging app WeChat -- 微信 in Chinese.

WeChat is huge. An editor at QQ.com's tech section, says half of his traffic comes from a mobile app, because it was once promoted by WeChat.

Back in the atrium, I ran into these two, mascots for QQ.com. They are QQ girl (L) and QQ boy (R)

This is QQ in a costume.

We headed up an elevator to see people at work.

Behold! The legal department at Tencent.

Tucked into a corner, there was a cool little break area with these exercise machines.

I tried balancing myself on this one.

For a more passive break there is this couch

This is the view out of the window

The break room had a vending machine…

…and you could buy stuff using a QR code reader in your WeChat app.

We passed a meeting room. Pretty standard!

Back to the elevator. I couldn't get over that the HQ was a skinny tower, not a campus like the tech companies I know (other than Bloomberg).

We stopped at the cafeteria for some photos.

We got out on Tencent's exhibition floor for visitors.

The QQ mascots were all over the place. (Fun to see a globe centered on China, not the USA)

The hall had lots of awards Tencent has won for being a good place to work.

There was video from big events QQ holds for its employees to go to, including concerts.

Big execs will get dressed in costumes for some of these shows.

My favourite video was one showing Tencent Chrismas parties over the years.

They started small…

…got more elaborate…

…became professional productions…

…got epic…

…and now they involve costumes…

…and even fake snow.

This is Tencent's slogan. Apparently, Google had a similar one before it left China.

Here it is in Chinese.

There were monitors showing Tencent's products, like this one for a charity.

Soso, the search engine, has a Google Maps-like product. It even has Street View.

This is Tencent's games porta.

This is a model of Tencent's new headquarters, not built yet.

Tencent is a huge business, generating $US2.5 billion revenues last quarter.

It's market cap is just over $US100 billion.

Another workout center!

This is Tencent's 'mission.'

This corner of the exhibition floor was dedicated to Tencent's commitment to the Chinese Communist Party

This is an org chart showing Party members in the company

This is the highest ranking Party member at Tencent.

Here's QQ wearing a hammer and sickle and winking.

This chart shows the number of Party members working at Tencent going up over the years.

It was weird seeing all this stuff, but remember, in the US, car dealerships will fly HUGE flags out front.

Next we went to a cafe outside.

It doubled as a gift store.

Lots of QQs in horse costumes.

And a QQ girl all in pink.

Some action figures inspired by Tencent games.

The store was packed with visitors taking photos.

As we left, this band of uniformed security guards walked by in formation.

That was it for my trip to Tencent…

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