Are there technical founders billionaires?

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei: The billionaire waiting for a taxi in the rain

Ren Zhengfei, 75, is a very wealthy man. The founder of Huawei could be picked up by a limousine anywhere in the world. But he prefers to wait for a taxi. At the airport, in the rain. The photo of the waiting reindeer spread quickly in Huawei's Wechat groups. Such a thing is typical for Ren, said top managers of the Chinese technology group Golem.de.

He used to like to ride the subway. Foreign guests arriving at the airport in Shenzhen, where the company's headquarters are located, will of course be picked up and accommodated in their own 5-star hotel. Apparently Ren doesn't need to.

Mr. Ren, as employees call him, could afford more than a limousine: According to Forbes, his personal fortune is 1.7 billion US dollars, which puts him at number 1,425 on Forbes' list of the richest people in the world.

Except that he is rich, little is known about Ren Zhengfei. Chinese top managers are traditionally more reserved than, say, American ones. It is only since his company has been in the media so much that he has to appear in public himself.

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Even if Ren is modest, his family has not exactly taken a vow of poverty: His youngest daughter, Annabel Yao, in particular, gives insights into the life of a child from the upper class on Instagram. In 2018 she was chosen at the Bal des Débutantes in Paris, an annual high society event for the beautiful daughters and sons of the top ten thousand. These included Baroness Ludmilla von Oppenheim from Germany and Julia McCaw, daughter of AT&T founder Craig McCaw. Annabel Yao is a junior at Harvard studying computer science and doing ballet.

Ren grew up hungry

Her famous father was born on October 25, 1944, both of his parents taught at a school. "They were both teachers who worked in a very remote and poor region in Guizhou. This region is mainly populated by minorities. My mother was a primary school director and my father was a middle school director.", Ren told ARD in an interview that was published in September 2019. "What I remember most of my childhood and youth is not having enough to eat. During the three years of the great famine, my greatest dream was to have just one steamed bun a day." It was not until 1963/64, when the Chinese economy began to recover, that hunger was no longer an issue.

Ren spent his elementary and middle school years in a remote town in Guizhou Province. In 1963 he began studying at the Chongqing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture. After graduating, he worked in the civil engineering industry until he joined the military engineering corps as a soldier in 1974. That was during the lifetime of state founder Mao Tse-Tung, who died in September 1976.

Military engineer

Because Prime Minister Zhou Enlai could not find suitable personnel in the regional engineering corps at short notice, "The military placed students like me who had some technical know-how in this important position to build the factory. I was lucky enough to be able to work on a modern engineering project and join the military", Ren explained to ARD.

“When I was building the Liaoyang factory, I invented an instrument through mathematical inference. It was the first of its kind in China and many other countries. to attend the National Science Conference. "

Because of criticism of his father's views during the Cultural Revolution, Ren said he was unable to become a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CP) during this period. As because of the invention "the upper levels wanted me to join the party", it was finally possible.

Ren's work in the military is often interpreted by the international media as evidence of his closeness to the secret service. He was a technician and engineer there and was most recently promoted to deputy director. Huawei counters the allegation of closeness to the state that Ren had no military rank. It's difficult to verify.

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