CTI 64: How Bytedance Built an 'Attention Factory,' with Matthew Brennan
Play • 58 min

China Tech Investor is a weekly look at China’s tech companies through the lens of investment. Each week, hosts Elliott Zaagman and James Hull go through their watch list of publicly listed tech companies and also interview experts on issues affecting the macroeconomy and the stock prices of China’s tech companies.

Make sure you don’t miss anything. Check out our lineup of China tech podcasts.

Elliott and James welcome back Matthew Brennan to the show to discuss his new book: Attention Factory: The Story of Tiktok and China’s Bytedance. Matthew shares insights into the company’s beginnings as well as its meteoric rise, the people and personalities that define its culture, and how Tiktok came close to failing in the US. 

Hosts may have interest in some of the stocks discussed. The discussion should not be construed as investment advice or a solicitation of services.


  • Tencent
  • Alibaba
  • Baidu
  • iQiyi
  • Xiaomi
  • JD
  • Pinduoduo
  • Meituan-Dianping
  • Luckin Coffee



  • Matthew Brennan– @mbrennanchina


Podcast information:

Tech Buzz China by Pandaily
Tech Buzz China by Pandaily
Ep. 80: Community (grocery) group buying: The next must-win market in China?
In episode 80 of Tech Buzz China, Rui and Ying talk about community group buying 社区团购 shèqū tuángòu, or CGB, which is the hottest thing in China tech right now. In addition to startups raising crazy funds — one just raised $700 million — the internet giants have all gone in with guns blazing, and investors are bullish.  Listen and follow along with us as we explore what exactly CGB is, and what makes it so special — and controversial. Listeners will also hear from one of our favorite China tech writers, Lillian Li of the Chinese Characteristics newsletter, who just wrote two issues on this topic.  Yup, Rui is still researching and writing on ByteDance for her ebook. You can get updates on it and our other work by subscribing to her newsletter, at techbuzzchina.com. Be sure to also check out the Tech Buzz China YouTube channel, which has some video-only content. Our transcripts are available on our website, as well as at pandaily.com and supchina.com.  If you enjoy our work, please do let us know by leaving us an iTunes review (drop us a note saying you did, and we’ll send you an Extra Buzz newsletter subscription), and by tweeting at us at @techbuzzchina. We also read your emails, at rui@techbuzzchina.com and ying@techbuzzchina.com.  Thank you to our teams at SupChina and Pandaily, and especially Caiwei Chen, Kaiser Kuo, and Jason MacRonald.
46 min
Analyse Asia with Bernard Leong
Analyse Asia with Bernard Leong
Carol Yin and Bernard Leong
Reflections and Predictions on China and SoftBank in 2020 with Shai Oster
Fresh out of the studio, in episode 338, Shai Oster, the Asia Bureau chief for The Information is back on his annual review with us again to discuss the state of China technology giants and SoftBank in the time of COVID-19 pandemic and predict what is to come in 2021. Starting the conversation, Shai reviewed the predictions he made in 2019 and explored the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on how they played out in 2020. From there, Shai reflected on the year that dominated the headlines in 2020: the diffusion of the China-US tensions to other regions: India and Australia against China tech giants, Tik Tok's problems in the US, Ant's botched IPO and SoftBank's attempt to go private. Last but not least, Shai offered his predictions for 2021 and what is to come for the Chinese technology giants and SoftBank for the year ahead. Here are the interesting show notes and links to the discussion: * * Shai Oster (@beijingscribe, LinkedIn, TheInformation Profile), Asia Bureau Chief in The Information * So since your last appearance on the show, what have you been up to? * 2019 Predictions: * China & US: Trump’s impeachment * China economy: growth * Tiktok will retreat from US, scale back & renew focus china, maybe India, Southeast Asia and Africa: accurate * Huawei * The shift of Chinese money to other markets * 2020 Events that shook China and SoftBank: The China-US tensions have exacerbated and percolated to other regions now (and that includes Australia and India) to Chinese companies: 1/ India banning 47 apps including Wechat, Tik Tok and many apps from China and 2/ Australia and US banned Wechat. * Let’s go to India first, given that the major unicorns are invested by Chinese tech giants, for example, PayTM by Alibaba, and the rise of local giants such as Reliance Jio backed by a strong US consortium: Facebook, Google, Silver Lake Partners, KKR, how do you see the challenges moving ahead for Xiaomi, which is dominant in India as well? * How do you think the Biden administration will handle the current tensions with China? * In the year ahead, do you think China will come down hard on US companies that are heavily invested here, like Apple or Starbucks Coffee? * Currently, the Chinese government has directed the local companies to be self-reliant, and specifically in the semiconductor industry, does that mean that we will see the decoupling of the supply chain accelerate much quicker? * Given that Tencent owns a few major gaming companies, for example, Epic, and with the recent lawsuit between Apple and Epic, do you see a possibility that the US government will pressure Tencent to divest their holdings in the US? * Tik Tok’s problems in the US and elsewhere: First, Kevin Mayer, the former CEO of DisneyPlus was poached and then became the CEO of Tik Tok US and Group COO, and subsequently resigned in July 2020, given the Trump’s administration insistence that the company has to be sold. Finally, after talks with rumors that Microsoft might acquire the entity completely, the eventual decision is that Oracle becomes the beneficiary of being an investor (along with Walmart) for Tik Tok US to ensure that data resides in the US. * What are your thoughts on Tik Tok’s current situation in the US? * Can ByteDance grow further given that there is so much pushback from other markets? * Where do you see ByteDance’s growth markets are? Will be they turn inwards towards domestically or expand to other markets where the push back is lesser, for example, Southeast Asia? * The Botched IPO of Ant Financial and what’s going to be next? * The Chinese government has ended Ant Financial’s IPO with direct interference from President Xi as reported by various outlets. What are the causes in your opinion as to why the IPO ended up not happening? * What are the implications for Alibaba Group as a whole with Ant Financial not able to IPO? * What must Ant Financial do in order to convince the authorities to allow them to IPO? * The billion-dollar question: Will Ant Financial eventually IPO? * A lot of people did not realize that the Ant Financial IPO has left a lot of money on the table in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, do you think that the companies which are going to IPO in HKSE will benefit from this event? * Does this offer a lesson to how Chinese tech companies should conduct themselves? Which companies do you think might run into trouble with the state? * COVID-19 Pandemic: * Which tech companies in China are the major beneficiaries of the COVID-19 pandemic? * China has managed the COVID-19 pandemic much better than the US. What are the implications to the Chinese economy from now with the various successful vaccines, for example, Pfizer vaccine being approved? * SoftBank in 2020 and its current strategy to go private * After the Wework debacle, SoftBank has gone on a few different directions: 1/ Selling their Alibaba stake, 2/ Sell ARM to NVDIA and Boston Dynamics to Hyundai, 3/ Ran a stock market gambit with futures in tech, 4/ DoorDash’s IPO giving them 10B gain that will write off Wework’s investment, and 5/ quietly buying back shares to go private? * How do you assess SoftBank’s performance in 2020 and do you think that with DoorDash’s success, will SoftBank Vision Fund 2 happen? * Has SoftBank’s enormous influence on the tech industry waned after WeWork’s debacle? Where do you think that they will spend the remainder of the $100B Vision Fund on? * Do you think that SoftBank will go private according to Tim Culpan’s analysis on Masa’s strategy? Do you think that SoftBank will manoeuvre and make a comeback after being private? * 2020 is now closing to the end, what are your predictions for 2021 so that we can have a future conversation a year from now? * Closing * Any recommendations? * Shai's recommendations: Rui Ma and Ying Ying Lu, Techbuzz China podcast and subscribe to The Information with the key breaking news it broke in 2020. * How does our audience find you? Editor's note: Our team in Analyse Asia thanked our audience for your support and wished everyone a Happy New Year 2021. The episode is recorded in the last week of 2020. Podcast Information: * * RSS Feed * Apple Podcasts * Himalaya * Spotify * Libsyn * Google Play * Overcast FM * SoundCloud * Luminary * Twitter * Facebook Video * Facebook Page * Linkedin * Stitcher * Castbox * RadioPublic * Acast * PodBean * ListenNotes * TuneIn The show is hosted and produced by Carol Yin (@CarolYujiaYin) and originally created by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong, Linkedin). Sound credits for the intro music: Taro Iwashiro, "The Beginning" from Red Cliff Soundtrack. analyseasia · Reflections and Predictions on China and SoftBank in 2020 with Shai Oster
1 hr 7 min
Gradient Dissent - A Machine Learning Podcast by W&B
Gradient Dissent - A Machine Learning Podcast by W&B
Lukas Biewald
Peter Wang on Anaconda, Python and Scientific Computing
Peter Wang talks about his journey of being the CEO of and co-founding Anaconda, his perspective on the Python programming language, and its use for scientific computing. Peter Wang has been developing commercial scientific computing and visualization software for over 15 years. He has extensive experience in software design and development across a broad range of areas, including 3D graphics, geophysics, large data simulation and visualization, financial risk modeling, and medical imaging. Peter’s interests in the fundamentals of vector computing and interactive visualization led him to co-found Anaconda (formerly Continuum Analytics). Peter leads the open source and community innovation group. As a creator of the PyData community and conferences, he devotes time and energy to growing the Python data science community and advocating and teaching Python at conferences around the world. Peter holds a BA in Physics from Cornell University. Follow peter on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pwang​ https://www.anaconda.com/​ Intake: https://www.anaconda.com/blog/intake-...​ https://pydata.org/​ Scientific Data Management in the Coming Decade paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/cs/0502008.pdf Topics covered: 0:00​ (intro) Technology is not value neutral; Don't punt on ethics 1:30​ What is Conda? 2:57​ Peter's Story and Anaconda's beginning 6:45​ Do you ever regret choosing Python? 9:39​ On other programming languages 17:13​ Scientific Data Management in the Coming Decade 21:48​ Who are your customers? 26:24​ The ML hierarchy of needs 30:02​ The cybernetic era and Conway's Law 34:31​ R vs python 42:19​ Most underrated: Ethics - Don't Punt 46:50​ biggest bottlenecks: open-source, python Visit our podcasts homepage for transcripts and more episodes! www.wandb.com/podcast Get our podcast on these other platforms: YouTube: http://wandb.me/youtube Soundcloud: http://wandb.me/soundcloud Apple Podcasts: http://wandb.me/apple-podcasts Spotify: http://wandb.me/spotify Google: http://wandb.me/google-podcasts Join our bi-weekly virtual salon and listen to industry leaders and researchers in machine learning share their work: http://wandb.me/salon Join our community of ML practitioners where we host AMA's, share interesting projects and meet other people working in Deep Learning: http://wandb.me/slack Our gallery features curated machine learning reports by researchers exploring deep learning techniques, Kagglers showcasing winning models, and industry leaders sharing best practices. https://wandb.ai/gallery
50 min
Evolving for the Next Billion by GGV Capital
Evolving for the Next Billion by GGV Capital
GGV Capital
Becoming Shopify | Evolving eCommerce ep.1
Today on the show, we have Harley Finkelstein, the President of Shopify. Shopify is a leading global e-commerce company, providing trusted tools to start, grow, market and manage a retail business of any size. Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, Shopify powers over 1 million businesses and more than 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as AllBirds, GymSharks, PepsiCo, Staples, and many more. Harley has been with the company since 2010. Prior to his current role, Harley founded numerous startups and ecommerce companies. He is currently an advisor to Felicis Ventures. Harley holds a Bachelor degree in Economics from Concordia University and a J.D./M.B.A. joint degree in Law and Business from the University of Ottawa. This episode is co-hosted by GGV colleague Robin Li. Based in New York, Robin invests in eCommerce, social, consumer internet, and digital economy. For the full transcript of the show, go to nextbn.ggvc.com Join our listeners' community, go to nextbn.ggvc.com/community Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or assets are for illustrative purposes only; such references do not constitute any recommendation to either buy or sell such securities or assets and are not intended to serve as the basis for any investment decision, nor do they constitute an offer to provide investment advisory services. Any information provided by third parties in this content does not reflect the views of GGV Capital and its subsidiaries or affiliates. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon, when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by GGV Capital. Any investment or portfolio company mentioned, referred to, or described is not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by GGV Capital, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results.
49 min
Machine Learning Street Talk
Machine Learning Street Talk
Machine Learning Street Talk
#038 - Professor Kenneth Stanley - Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned
Professor Kenneth Stanley is currently a research science manager at OpenAI in San Fransisco. We've Been dreaming about getting Kenneth on the show since the very begininning of Machine Learning Street Talk. Some of you might recall that our first ever show was on the enhanced POET paper, of course Kenneth had his hands all over it. He's been cited over 16000 times, his most popular paper with over 3K citations was the NEAT algorithm. His interests are neuroevolution, open-endedness, NNs, artificial life, and AI. He invented the concept of novelty search with no clearly defined objective. His key idea is that there is a tyranny of objectives prevailing in every aspect of our lives, society and indeed our algorithms. Crucially, these objectives produce convergent behaviour and thinking and distract us from discovering stepping stones which will lead to greatness. He thinks that this monotonic objective obsession, this idea that we need to continue to improve benchmarks every year is dangerous. He wrote about this in detail in his recent book "greatness can not be planned" which will be the main topic of discussion in the show. We also cover his ideas on open endedness in machine learning.  00:00:00 Intro to Kenneth  00:01:16 Show structure disclaimer  00:04:16 Passionate discussion  00:06:26 WHy greatness cant be planned and the tyranny of objectives  00:14:40 Chinese Finger Trap   00:16:28 Perverse Incentives and feedback loops  00:18:17 Deception  00:23:29 Maze example  00:24:44 How can we define curiosity or interestingness  00:26:59 Open endedness  00:33:01 ICML 2019 and Yannic, POET, first MSLST  00:36:17 evolutionary algorithms++  00:43:18 POET, the first MLST   00:45:39 A lesson to GOFAI people  00:48:46 Machine Learning -- the great stagnation  00:54:34 Actual scientific successes are usually luck, and against the odds -- Biontech  00:56:21 Picbreeder and NEAT  01:10:47 How Tim applies these ideas to his life and why he runs MLST  01:14:58 Keith Skit about UCF  01:15:13 Main show kick off  01:18:02 Why does Kenneth value serindipitous exploration so much  01:24:10 Scientific support for Keneths ideas in normal life  01:27:12 We should drop objectives to achieve them. An oxymoron?  01:33:13 Isnt this just resource allocation between exploration and exploitation?  01:39:06 Are objectives merely a matter of degree?  01:42:38 How do we allocate funds for treasure hunting in society  01:47:34 A keen nose for what is interesting, and voting can be dangerous  01:53:00 Committees are the antithesis of innovation  01:56:21 Does Kenneth apply these ideas to his real life?  01:59:48 Divergence vs interestingness vs novelty vs complexity  02:08:13 Picbreeder  02:12:39 Isnt everything novel in some sense?  02:16:35 Imagine if there was no selection pressure?  02:18:31 Is innovation == environment exploitation?  02:20:37 Is it possible to take shortcuts if you already knew what the innovations were?  02:21:11 Go Explore -- does the algorithm encode the stepping stones?  02:24:41 What does it mean for things to be interestingly different?  02:26:11 behavioral characterization / diversity measure to your broad interests  02:30:54 Shaping objectives  02:32:49 Why do all ambitious objectives have deception? Picbreeder analogy  02:35:59 Exploration vs Exploitation, Science vs Engineering  02:43:18 Schools of thought in ML and could search lead to AGI  02:45:49 Official ending
2 hr 46 min
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