Inside TikTok CEO’s Plan to Play Offense

Shou Zi Chew is fending off intensifying threats to the viral video app, including circling regulators and slowing growth. His answer: Give his policy team more freedom and make bigger bets on e-commerce and livestreaming.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. Photo by Getty
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. Photo by Getty
July 26, 2023 6:00 AM PDT

When the public face of TikTok’s management in the U.S.—V Pappas, TikTok’s chief operating officer—announced their departure last month, it marked the biggest shake-up in the top ranks of the popular short-form video app since its CEO, Shou Zi Chew, took over the job two years ago. To people inside TikTok, though, it wasn’t a surprise.

The departure of Pappas—and their replacement by Adam Presser, Chew’s former chief of staff—was the culmination of months of growing tensions between TikTok’s No. 2 executive and Chew. Since last year, the Singapore-based Chew had been chipping away at Pappas’ power while TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has poured money into teams outside Pappas’ oversight, such as e-commerce and livestreaming, which he hopes will help TikTok invigorate growth and eventually turn a profit.

Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
From left, a Google TPU, Broadcom CEO Hock Tan and Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian. Photos via Getty, Google and YouTube.
Exclusive google semiconductors
To Reduce AI Costs, Google Wants to Ditch Broadcom as Its TPU Server Chip Supplier
Google executives have extensively discussed dropping Broadcom as a supplier of artificial intelligence chips as early as 2027, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort.
Photo via Midjourney.
AI Agenda startups ai
The Rise of Startups That Help Other Startups Evaluate LLMs
All but a handful of artificial intelligence startups typically fall into one of two camps. The first group uses a single large-language model, typically OpenAI’s GPT-4, to power their applications.
Photos via Eiso Kant (left) and YouTube/VMWare Tanzu (right)
AI Agenda startups ai
How GitHub Copilot’s Co-Creator Raised $126 Million to Compete with His Former Employer
Recent interest in artificial intelligence has focused on large-language models that aim to do everything from writing Shakespearean poetry to solving math riddles.
Art by Clark Miller
Exclusive startups entertainment
MasterClass Takes a Crash Course in Frugality
MasterClass had a problem with the shoot featuring its latest star instructor, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.
If AI researchers can meet Nat Friedman's Vesuvius Challenge, “It’ll be the first time we’ve read handwriting that hasn’t been seen in 2,000 years.” Art by Clark Miller
The AI Age culture ai
Nat Versus the Volcano: Can an AI Investor Solve an Ancient Mystery from the Ashes of Vesuvius?
Long before men’s daily thoughts about ancient Rome became a TikTok meme , former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman’s mind was regularly turning toward the Roman Empire.
Photo via Jacopo Pantaleoni.
AI Agenda ai
Nvidia Engineer’s Message to Google AI Researchers: Leave Your Company
Jacopo Pantaleoni joined Nvidia in 2001 when the company had less than 500 employees. He worked on what was then a small research project to improve Nvidia’s graphics processing units so they could better render images on computers and gaming consoles.