In a world where ultra-high net worth is typically tied to generational wealth, the self-made and sustained billionaire is rare. The story of Maodong Xu’s global success and subsequent fortune is rooted in the humblest of origin stories. In a career spanning three decades, he has made a name for himself in blockchain and made billions from building and selling FinTech, eCommerce, and mobile tech businesses. His name has landed squarely on the Forbes list of Chinese billionaires and other high-profile publications, but it is the beginnings of his journey to success that may make you sit up and take notice.
Born in Rizhao, Shandong Province, China, Mr. Xu’s formative years were spent in a fishing village, so small that it cannot be found on a map. Located along the southeast coast of Shandong Province and abutting the Yellow Sea, Rizhao is known as the home of Physics Nobel Laureate, Ding Zhaozhong.
His education was met with challenge after challenge. The English teacher moved on after his first year, and the school could not find a replacement. Mr. Xu recalls the chemistry teacher who, as a result of having a second child, was dismissed, leaving another gap in his education. With aging math and physics teachers who were only able to meet minimum requirements and maintain their health, Maodong Xu’s self-reliance and resilience was enhanced as he taught himself. His ability to learn quickly and in less-than-ideal situations was solidified through his middle school experience.
At the end of his time in the middle school, he was admitted into an elite high school, a feat that was not duplicated from the time of the middle school’s founding in 1956 to the school consolidation of 1990. Even in his formative years of study, he was differentiating himself from the pack and establishing a name for himself. In 1990, he graduated from Wuhan University of Technology, majoring in computer application and automation while minoring in business management. He had proven his stamina and perseverance throughout his adolescence, and now it was time to implement all he’d learned.
In 1993, Maodong Xu would marry Fang Zhou, and with the wedding money they were gifted, he invested in the foundations of his first business endeavor.
“My experiences were anything but ordinary,” says Maodong Xu. “I worked to learn. I worked to live. I worked to support a family, and I worked to begin my business. I had no qualms about the work, and each step forward helped me better understand what investment looked like and how it would shape my future.”
By 1994, the up-and-coming entrepreneur had established QiLu supermarket, the first of a chain that would span the Shandong Province and later become his first major return on an investment. He was a visionary and a savvy entrepreneur to boot. It was time to take the next step in amassing his billions and level-up his business-building endeavors. He founded China’s largest SMS app company, Dotad, which Focus Media acquired for $30M and renamed to Focus Wireless. The return on his investment doubled when, after acquisition, that share price increased further. This cycle became typical for Maodon Xu’s companies — the wash, rinse, repeat of building and selling companies.
But Mr. Xu’s empire was about more than building quality companies for acquisition. Along the way, he has contributed major technologies and innovations that have supported bringing tech progression to the masses. He founded Wowo, Welink, and Lmobile. Acquisitions grew exponentially, and in 2017, Mr. Zu landed on the Top 10 News Figures in China list. His business savvy and head for investment experienced their next evolution when, in 2018, he moved to the United States to collaborate with his son, Haohan Xu, in new business endeavors. Together, they have brought the business-to-business e-commerce platform, Fresh2 into the US market, providing a new way to supply food to specialty Asian restaurants.
From his earliest memories, Maodong Xu understands the importance of risk in achieving reward. He risked his family’s expectations when he embarked on new educational paths, and that same spirit of investment — personally and professionally — has paid off in every way. As he studies the riches around him, Mr. Xu is quick to remind those that ask about his success how important our origins are. Every step down every path has been steeped in possibility and fueled by the willingness to take a chance and make the investments that pay off.