China’s Nasdaq-style Star Market board in Shanghai has produced at least 13 billionaires since its launch a year ago, driven by market exuberance over tech companies with returns that outstripped the much-vaunted FAANG members.
The 13 founders of companies that went public on the Star Market—also known as the Shanghai Stock Exchange Science and Technology Innovation Board—boast an individual net worth of more than a billion dollars, based on the market value of the stakes they own.
The burgeoning wealth capped the board’s first anniversary, establishing a fundraising venue for companies in industries from semiconductor manufacturing to biotechnology, after a series of groundbreaking reforms such as doing away with an implicit valuation cap of 23 times price-to-earnings ratio for new listings.
The 133 companies listed on the board have surged 201% on average from their initial public offering levels based on Tuesday’s closing prices, according to data from Sina Finance. The NYSE FANG+ Index, which tracks ten stocks including Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, has advanced about 80% since a year ago.
This year, top performer National Silicon Industry Group has returned a stunning 1,054%, while Aphabet Inc (Google) and Facebook logged in about 16% and Amazon advanced 68%.
At the top of the rich list is Chen Tianshi, the 35-year-old founder of artificial intelligence (AI) chip maker Cambricon Technologies, a supplier to Huawei Technologies. The firm raised 2.6 billion yuan (USD 371 million) in an IPO, with the stock chalking up a 336% gain since its debut on Monday.
Chen, a former computer science professor at the country’s top research institution, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, controls a combined 38% interest valued at 42 billion yuan (USD 6 billion) by the market close on Wednesday, according to a calculation by the South China Morning Post.
The valuation would rank him among the country’s 45 richest people, based on Forbes’ China Rich List in 2019.
A mathematics prodigy, Chen was selected for a special program for gifted youths at the University of Science and Technology of China at the age of 16. He received his PhD degree at 25, and went on to become a researcher upon graduation. After more than six years of researching and teaching, Chen founded Cambricon in 2016.
Four years on, Cambricon has grown into one of China’s most valuable AI chip makers, supplying chips to companies including Chinese telecom giant Huawei. Shares of Cambricon have risen by 336% to 281 yuan from its listing price of 64.39 yuan.
Trailing Chen is Zhao Yan, chairman of Bloomage BioTechnology, the world’s largest maker of hyaluronic acid dermal fillers—the substance that can smooth out wrinkles and enlarge lips. The company went public on the Star Market in November after delisting from Hong Kong in 2017.
Zhao owns a 59% stake in Bloomage, according to its latest filing, which is worth 40 billion yuan as of Wednesday’s close.
Zhao, 54, who has kept a low profile over the years, is said to have made her initial fortune from running a clothes factory on the southern island of Hainan. She entered the field of dermal fillers in 2001 after sensing huge opportunities in China’s cosmetic surgery market.
She was ranked as the 12th richest self-made woman in the world by the Hurun Research Institute in March.
Apart from Zhao and Chen, there are also more familiar names among the wealthy tech founders. Lei Jun, the founder of smartphone maker Xiaomi, for example, has been boosted by a 12% stake he owns in Beijing Kingsoft Office Software that is worth 21 billion yuan.
This article was originally published by the South China Morning Post.