ByteDance begins hiring for possible push into semiconductors

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The standout Chinese start-up ByteDance has begun hiring employees for a possible push into semiconductors, exploring an expansion well beyond the hit video app TikTok for which it is best known.

The company has posted at least a dozen job openings related to semiconductors, including hardware and software engineers in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. A spokesperson for the company confirmed it’s hiring talent as it explores initiatives in the field, including building server chips based on Arm Ltd designs.

ByteDance, founded by Zhang Yiming, has become the most valuable start-up in the world on the success of TikTok and its domestic clone, Douyin. The company, last valued at about US$180 billion (S$242 billion), is said to be exploring an initial public offering for some of its businesses in Hong Kong, including Douyin.

In pushing into chips, Mr Zhang is delving into a business that has become a top priority for China’s Communist Party. During the National People’s Congress this month, the government pledged to boost spending and drive research into cutting-edge chips and artificial intelligence, in an to vie with the US for global influence.

Baidu, the dominant search provider in China and a ByteDance rival, recently raised US$230 million for its AI chip division ahead of a potential spin-off of the business.

Companies such as Google, Amazon.com and Apple have all worked to custom design silicon as they expand into new fields. Gains in efficiency and security are among the key advantages of crafting application-specific hardware.

ByteDance’s foray could help it produce chips tailor made for processing the data and making AI recommendations for its stable of social apps.

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