Alumni Stories
Chen Shaojie

How a Video Gamer Became the Founder of Douyu, China’s Largest Video Game Changer

Chen Shaojie is the founder and CEO of DouYu, a leading Chinese video game live streaming platform and a pioneer in the eSports industry. Founded in 2014, DouYu allows users to enjoy immersive and interactive games and entertainment live streaming by posting comments in real time. Despite the regulatory headwinds in 2021, there is no denying that Chen has been able to successfully build one of the largest game-streaming platforms in China. Chen attended Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business’ CEO Program.  

In this new alumni series, we track down CKGSB’s most influential graduates, many of whom have gone on to lead unicorn companies – privately held companies valued at USD $1 billion or more. According to CB Insights – a global platform which provides authoritative and up-to-date information on the world’s billion-dollar private companies – China has created a total of 217 unicorn companies between 2017 to 2021. Thirty-nine (or 18%) of these companies are run by CKGSB alumni, including 35 companies where CKGSB alumni are founders or co-founders, and 4 companies where they serve as the chairman, CEO or president.

As China’s leading business school, it’s not surprising that CKGSB has been able to produce so many business leaders playing a pivotal role in China’s economic development. More than 18,000 successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders and executives of multinational corporations have chosen to study at CKGSB for the original China insights, world-class faculty and peer-to-peer learning with China’s movers-and-shakers. More than half of CKGSB’s alumni are at the CEO or Chairman level and, collectively, lead one-fifth of China’s most valuable brands.

Turning a hobby into a business

Chen Shaojie attended Shandong Youth University of Political Science, majoring in computer science. He dropped out in his freshman year when he became addicted to video games. Instead, the 21-year-old Chen found a job developing online games in Wuhan, Hubei province in 2006. Turning passion into his career, Chen, together with Zhang Wenming co-founded, an online video game platform called Zhangmenren, in 2008. It was later acquired by Shengqu Games, an online game operator and publisher.

In 2010, Chen bought AcFun, China’s first video platform with danmu (literally translated as “bullet-words”, which allows user to commentate during the video). He launched DouYu TV four years later.

Chen’s brainchild, has successively created and sponsored major e-sports clubs, including its own e-sports club, in China, creating an ecosystem around video gaming.

With the world’s largest game-centric live streaming market, this emerging platform grew rapidly in just a few years, and attracted millions of broadcasters and users, as well as investors. In 2017, the cumulative downloads of DouYu were about 25.6 million. In 2018, Tencent valued the company at USD $2.5 billion and invested USD $630 million. In 2019, DouYu officially listed on the Nasdaq.

On the day of the listing, Chen told tech media, Deep Web, that young people prefer to speak and express themselves and “danmu” creates a new way to communicate with users. At the height of success, Chen ranked 34th in “Hurun Under 40s China Rich List 2020” with a wealth of RMB 5.5 billion.

It has been a tough time for game-streaming companies especially since July 2021 when China stopped issuing new game licenses. According to its financial reports, DouYu posted a net loss of RMB 193.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2021.

However, despite the challenges, Chen said that in the future he and the company will continue to “leverage our innovative interactive operations, as well as rich content across various formats including livestreaming, videos, graphics, and communities, to continue exploring new growth initiatives as we build on our leading position in the gaming livestreaming industry.”

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