Alibaba-Backed Edtech Startup Hires CFO Ahead of Likely U.S. IPO

Chinese online tutoring platform Zuoyebang has recruited a senior executive from Nasdaq-listed Joyy Inc. to become its chief financial officer as the high-flying startup prepares for an initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bing Jin, who is scheduled to step down as CFO of the live-streaming firm next month, is expected to shepherd Beijing-based Zuoyebang through its possible stock market debut, the people said. The education startup backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is particularly interested in Jin’s experience in American capital markets, its preferred listing venue, they said, asking to not be identified because the matter is private.

Changes to the hiring could still occur as Jin hasn’t formally left Joyy yet. Zuoyebang and Jin declined to comment on the hiring and IPO plans.

Loosely translated as “homework assistant,” Zuoyebang is a spinoff of China’s search engine titan Baidu Inc. Founded by former Baidu executive Hou Jianbin in 2015, the startup has raised at least $3.4 billion from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Sequoia Capital China. It offers live-steaming classes as well as other remote study services to more than 170 million monthly active users throughout China. On any given day, at least 50 million students -- the equivalent of the entire population of Spain -- are using its platform, the company has claimed.

Distance learning has become a red hot market for investors as more students embrace online education, a trend that was accelerated by school closures amid the pandemic. Startups in the sector attracted a total of $9.2 billion last year, more than quadruple the funds raised in 2019, according to research firm Zero2IPO Group.

Zuoyebang is just one of several Chinese edtech startups planning to make their debut as a public company. Zhangmen, a smaller rival backed by Warburg Pincus, is considering a U.S. initial public offering that could raise about $300 million, Bloomberg has reported. Yuanfudao, another leading online education startup backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., is also eyeing an IPO in 2022, people familiar said last month.

Joyy said in February that Jin is leaving to pursue a new job opportunity after nearly four years as CFO. Since he joined the firm in 2017 from Credit Suisse Group AG, its valuation has more than tripled to roughly $9.2 billion as of Monday. In November, Baidu acquired Joyy’s Chinese video-based entertainment live-streaming business for $3.6 billion.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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