Pinduoduo Huang Zheng’s Letter to Shareholders

Production Editor: Hülya Karahan

Following the July 2018 initial public offering of Pinduoduo on NASDAQ, Huang’s 47% stake was valued at $14 billion, making Huang Zheng the 13th richest person in China (REAL TIME NET WORTH $25.7B)

The Shanghai-based company Pinduoduo released its 2019 annual report. According to the annual report, in 2019, Pinduoduo realized a turnover of 1006.6 billion yuan, the annual number of active buyers on the platform reached 585.2 million, and an annual revenue of 30.14 billion yuan.

In terms of cash reserves, Pinduoduo holds cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments totaling 41.06 billion yuan, which does not include $ 1.1 billion of private placement financing in the first quarter of 2020.

According to the core data such as the number of users, Pinduoduo, which has been established for 4 and a half years, has become China’s second largest e-commerce platform.

In the annual report, Pinduoduo CEO Huang Zheng issued a letter to shareholders, in which he stated that the journey of the new world has just begun.

The following is the full text of Huang Zheng’s letter to shareholders:


What time?

In February, the world learned a new word, “COVID-19”, which upended our lives. As I write this, half of the world remains confined at home, waiting for the tiny virus that causes COVID-19 to leave us. During the early days of the outbreak, as we waited in solidarity, we eagerly hoped to return to normal. But as the world has been put on hold week after week, we start to forget time.

We cannot help but ask ourselves, what is the time we are in now and what is time?

We are in a time of crisis – of division, misinformation, and chaos. The virus has caused countless conflicts and contrasts as we watch the news around us and worldwide. It is an unprecedented time to most of us. Yet if we put it in the context of the human history, it might just be a normal incident, a drop in the ocean.

This virus is a messenger by Mother Nature. Out of self-protection and preservation, our bodies desperately fought it using all the strength and energy available. Soon enough, the war against this seemingly unstoppable virus extended from our own bodies to the broader organisms that make up our society (if we see every institution as a living organism made up of people and relationships with a mission and purpose). Companies, governments, countries, big and small, are all scrambling in their own ways to combat this life-threatening virus. In these attempts, we possibly have unintentionally introduced more damage to ourselves.

These all started with an almost invisible virus, a tiny messenger carrying some information (RNA) and a negligible amount of energy that, independent of a host, cannot even replicate. It is in stark contrast with nuclear threat, the power we feared for decades. Which is more capable of greater and more prolonged damage to our human society then – a mushroom cloud representing massive destructive energy, or a “messenger” with virtually no energy?

We cannot help but wonder if this is a lesson purposefully delivered, a punishment, a redemption, or simple irony? No matter what it is, it is surreal to me.

Time for new

When Einstein wrote down his famous E = MC2, he elegantly (in some sense also arrogantly) depicted a physical world in his mind. However, what he did not explain in his theory of relativity is the relationship between the human mind and the physical world, nor the relationship between energy and information.

Today, in this bizarre time, millions of people are staying at home, physically cut off from their families and friends. Yet we are connected and unified in spirit through shared sentiment, which in turn affects the physical world. The boundaries between the virtual and physical worlds are unprecedentedly blurred, and we are beginning to see (not just envision) a new world. In this new world, the phrase “virtual reality” is obsolete. Reality has become virtual and virtual has become part of reality. Similarly, the distinction between humanity’s physical needs and spiritual needs is also becoming vague.

When this tiny virus was dropped into our world, it acted just like a catalyst in a test tube, accelerating the formation of a whole new world. Inevitably, some dimensions of the previous world are being restructured, some rules are being rewritten. The impact of this sweeping force will fundamentally and permanently change the world we are in now. Just like what I explained in the previous shareholder letters about PDD’s formation, new models are bound to emerge and grow in a whole new setup. We are indeed seeing the phasing out of some as new ones emerge. It is the time of reestablishment.

Feel the time

1.Time with an arrow/direction

Human beings have long used reason to try to understand and control the world. In many cases, we succeeded, for example, science. In science, we strive to detach ourselves from the physical world we are in, to watch it as if we are a higher being “objectively” observing, understanding, and defining the world into a finite number of equations. In this framework, time is a reversible parameter in the equation -t = (-)t. It is merely a parameter in an equation to describe a predetermined trajectory of an object.

However, when an almost invisible virus awoken us to the reality that we are not above the world, but just a negligible part of the world to be observed, the only thing we can do is to sit still and let time carry its course. We then realize time is not really a parameter in an equation, but an irreversible vector. It is a silent and relentless directional force driving everything we see and feel. It effortlessly creates asymmetry, irreversibility and mortality, no matter how stubbornly and desperately we yearn for symmetry and immortality.

While the first law of thermodynamics (∆U = Q-W) gives us a sense of control and certainty, the second law (∆S ≥ 0) humbles us to acknowledge the unknown beyond just force and mass we used to define our physical world. Entropy (S) also relates to information. I am not sure if entropy relates to the spiritual world, but it does help us feel and comprehend time. Again, it is not a reversible parameter, but a silent and irreversible driving force beyond and behind both the physical and the spiritual world.

2.Time, crowd and uncertainty

When Newton revealed F = M(dV/dT), it gave us a delusive sense of control, or at least it allowed our wishful thinking that we can finally harness force. We no longer have to worry, because every object has a calculable trajectory determined by its position, mass, velocity and force. We assume each object’s current state fully encompasses and explains its past and that each object is independent. With that, large number of interactions among large number of objects over time would increase complexity and appear chaotic and uncertain, hence probabilistic. It seems that time has created this chaos and uncertainty. And probability is just a statistical aggregation of the trajectories of a large number of objects.

However, when we are isolated at home, waiting with anxiety and unsettling emotions, we start to doubt whether the notion of each object being independent is really a valid assumption in our attempt to understand and explain the world. In our yearning for certainty, we have conveniently chosen to accept some assumptions, such as independence among each object, that can help us explain the world. Our desire for certainty is so strong that we start believing it is truth.

But what if probability is a fundamental feature of each object, rather than a result of statistical aggregation? What if the large number of objects is intrinsically intertwined and interrelated? Just like our human society, no matter how independent each individual is, we are intrinsically connected both physically and spiritually. And these connections define who we are and our existence.

Because of these connections, the divide-and-conquer approach is no longer effective to reduce uncertainty. Instead, we see the large number of interactions among individuals over time becoming a force that brings order and certainty to the society. Again, we feel the force and magic of time.

Seize the time

When COVID-19 swept the earth, every organism was confronted with the brutal reality of Mother Nature. Some of us who are relatively young cannot help but to feel grateful and lucky. This is not to say that we see an opportunity to take advantage of during the crisis. In fact, I despise the saying “don’t waste a crisis”. A crisis is a crisis. Nobody can come out as a winner in the midst of a catastrophe. Any wishful thinking to capture the “opportunities” (or exploiting loopholes) to benefit oneself seems foolish in the face of time. It is akin to a presumptuous gambler trying to outsmart time at a casino.

Instead, we feel the urge to work even harder. Because we, more than ever, understand and appreciate how precious youth is. More than ever, we realize that we now have our duty to fulfil. We need to demonstrate that our generation is innovative and different, that in this new world, new species and new creatures are bound to emerge and grow. Mother Nature will flourish and progress, regardless of any individual’s will. Understanding these rules of nature does not make us feel superior, nor does it give us the power to rule and order. On the contrary, it humbles us to admit that we are just part of a natural evolution of the world. One poet captured it all: “As I silently look back, all the sorrows and joy, all the twists and turns, of life, vanished like sands in the desert. And now I know, all I have accomplished, is just a part of life.”

With this perspective and in this new world, we feel humble and calm. We are tremendously grateful for our precious youth, and we feel the weight of our duty. As a result, we will be more than ever committed to investing in the future, and to be part of the driving force to the new world we are seeing. The journey has only started.

This is our Carpe Diem. This is our C’est La Vie.

Colin Zheng Huang

On behalf of Pinduoduo

April 20, 2020

Colin Huang or Huang Zheng, was born 1979/1980 is a Chinese businessman. He is the founder and CEO of e-commerce company Pinduoduo.


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Pinduoduo Huang Zheng's Letter to Shareholders: The Journey of the New World has Just Begun

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