Baidu, China’s equivalent of Google, was dominant but burning users’ trust by making adverts look like real search results.
The solution, Zhang figured, was artificial intelligence (AI) that learned users’ preferences as they browsed.
Chinese venture capitalists turned him down flat. It was an American venture capital firm, Susquehanna International, that gave him his big chance with a $5m funding round, allowing him to launch the app for which ByteDance is still most famous in China.
Toutiao, meaning “headlines”, shows its users news stories and learns their interests through its AI. The app has grown to more than 260 million
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