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Jean Liu drives Didi’s worldwide picture

After a Didi driver was murdered by his passenger within the central province of Hunan in 2019, it was Jean Liu, the president of the Chinese language ride-hailing app, who flew to the scene to console his household.

Later, on Weibo, the Chinese language microblog, she admitted to feeling “weak and scared” when making the journey and wrote: “We beg that you just all give us one other likelihood to make amends so we’d emerge from this cocoon as a butterfly.”

The 43-year-old’s function as a firefighter and world dealmaker for Didi paid off this week, because it made the most important debut on Wall Avenue for a Chinese language firm since Alibaba’s preliminary public providing in 2014.

The corporate’s dominance in ride-hailing in China makes it particularly uncovered to regulatory crackdown. The authorities have issued common warnings over every part from security to potential antitrust probes for price-fixing and unfair pay for drivers. On Friday, simply two days after its IPO, it got here underneath fireplace from cybersecurity regulators, who stated they wished to research its information practices.

Whereas Didi’s founder, chair and chief government, Cheng Wei, cuts a low profile, Liu has lengthy been the general public ambassador for Didi, usually the only lady on her panels at world expertise conferences and delivering speeches on China’s tech scene, in addition to range and sustainability.

She is central to Didi’s push to develop into a “actually world” firm, a objective that dovetails with Beijing’s want to construct internationally aggressive tech champions.

In a speech to the Asia-Pacific Financial Discussion board in November, Liu stated that Didi intends to distinguish itself from different world ride-hailing friends by not taking a “cookie cutter” strategy to coming into new nations. “A number of western corporations take a one-size-fits-all strategy,” she stated.

In China, she has 10m followers on Weibo, usually meets drivers, and personally responds to complaints concerning the firm. Her open and private tone helped Didi climate its worst home scandal, a string of murders and security scandals involving drivers and feminine passengers in 2018 and 2019.

After graduating with laptop science levels from Peking college and Harvard, Liu joined Goldman Sachs, the place she labored for greater than a decade in Hong Kong, rising quickly to guide regional operations.

She determined to depart her place as head of Goldman Sachs Asia to hitch Didi in 2014, as the corporate confronted an costly conflict of attrition with rivals Kuaidi Dache and Uber.

In interviews with Chinese language media, Liu has described how she initially got here to know Cheng and Didi as a part of Goldman’s efforts to put money into the subsequent technology of Chinese language expertise start-ups however by no means landed the deal. 

As an alternative, Cheng took her up on a suggestion she made as a joke over dinner: if she couldn’t put money into Didi, then she may as nicely come work for the corporate.

However in September 2015, Liu despatched a company-wide e-mail saying that she had had surgical procedure for breast most cancers and was feeling in good well being. For a lot of staff it was the primary they heard of her sickness.

A yr later, she would inform Didi’s annual assembly that it felt like she had “simply discovered a runway and was able to take-off when a clap of thunder abruptly grounded [me]”.

Liu has spoken about how her alternative to hitch Didi was partly impressed by her father, Liu Chuanzhi, the founding father of Lenovo Group, the world’s largest maker of laptops which spurred its world dominance by buying IBM’s laptop computer division in 2005.

And she or he was not the one Liu of her technology to depart a mark on China’s tech panorama. On the top of Didi’s cash-burning worth conflict with Uber, Liu needed to compete along with her cousin, Liu Zhen, a former Silicon Valley lawyer who was head of technique at Uber China on the time.

The stand-off ended with Didi buying Uber’s China enterprise in alternate for a 12.8 per cent stake in Didi and a board seat for Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder after which chief government. 

Arguably, neither of the cousins misplaced. After leaving Uber China, Liu Zhen joined ByteDance as China chief the place she helped Zhang Yiming, one other softly spoken and low-profile tech founder, flip his firm into China’s most useful start-up.

Jean Liu performed the same function for Didi. In her first yr on the firm as chief working officer, she was instrumental in securing funding of Rmb7bn ($1.1bn) from Tencent, SoftBank, Alibaba and Apple.

As a part of that deal making, she hosted Tim Prepare dinner, Apple’s chief government, in Beijing. She argued that the 2 have been a very good match, as a result of Didi’s holding firm, Xiaoju Kuaizhi, actually interprets as “little orange”.

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