Louis Yang, the first head of ByteDance Education Hardware Business, left the job last week. Yang was one of the founders of Musical.ly, TikTok’s predecessor, but After joining ByteDance in 2017, he launched the Dali Smart Lamp. However, after the “Double Reduction” policy in 2021, which targeted tutoring companies that provide services to students in compulsory education, Yang was transferred to the strategic department of the company. Domestic media outlet LatePost reported the news on July 7.
Hardware has always been the key part of ByteDance’s education business. After Yang joined the division in 2017, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming expressed to him that he hoped that the company’s future business would have both software and hardware, online business and offline business. At that time, ByteDance was looking exploring several other industries, notably smartphones and automobiles, among others. The company later chose to focus on educational hardware. The main reason was that the market was large enough, there were few big players, and there was a successful precedent like BBK.
But table lamps are Yang’s preferred category. He thinks it is a regular product on students’ desks, a simple yet broad market, and requires little difficulty to promote. He also put forward a vision: connecting students’ desks with smart lamps, thus forming the largest classroom in human history. At the initial stage of the project, this vision inspired many people.
Besides hardware, Yang also plans to develop software and educational services at the same time, which he calls the “triathlon”. In 2019, ByteDance launched help apps for school homework in India and the US. During the early stages of design, the smart lamp was also defined by the team as a “hardware version of the homework help app” – when students point to the topics and words in books, the screen can display problem-solving ideas and text notes.
At first, this lamp was not welcomed by the market. After two years marketing the product, the team shifted the sales of lamps to Douyin e-commerce channels and then set its target at 2 million units. In order to support the hardware business, advertising on Douyin offered a 25% discount on internal settlement, and a 20% discount on promotion ad. In the end, 1 million smart lamps were successfully sold, and those sold through online channels accounted for 80%.
Zhang Yiming, and Chen Lin, Senior Vice President of ByteDance and head of the company’s education business, have repeatedly commented that the “Dali Smart Lamp” is a “breakthrough with bright ideas” in the education business. But even so, “the lamps still didn’t make money,” a ByteDance employee said.
Yang Kang, the current head of ByteDance’s Education Hardware Business, will be transferred to the company’s Operation Strategy Office. The hardware team will retain its quality inspection and sales teams while two sources said that there are still hundreds of thousands of lamps in stock for sale, and there are no plans to launch new devices.