This start-up pays top employees the highest salaries in the market

Wad of Cash

Total compensation can exceed $3 million.

Bloomberg News reports that China may have a reputation for low wages and sprawling factories. But in a sign of changing times, one startup founder has embraced a strategy of paying top employees the highest salaries in the market - and so far it's working.

Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. is the brainchild of an entrepreneur named Zhang Yiming. The company is best known for a mobile app called Jinri Toutiao, or Today's Headlines, which aggregates news and videos from hundreds of media outlets. In five years, the app has become one of the most popular news services anywhere, with 120 million daily users.

Toutiao is on pace to pull in about $2.5 billion in revenue this year, largely from advertising. It was just valued at more than $20 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, roughly the same as Elon Musk's SpaceXIn China, the Beijing company is controversial because of its recruiting.

ByteDance hires top performers from giants like Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., sometimes raising salaries 50 percent and tossing in stock options. Zhang is unapologetic.

Top performers can make $1 million in salary and bonus a year, plus options, according to people familiar with its hiring. Total compensation can exceed $3 million. Zhang declined to comment on specific figures, saying most employees prefer stock over cash.

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