A controversial Chinese start-up is going all out to recruit top talent — and its strategy seems to be working so far.

Beijing ByteDance Technology is the company and its mobile app, Jinri Toutiao (or Today’s Headlines), is a news aggregator that has, in just five years, amassed more than 120 million daily users and generated annual revenue exceeding $2.5 billion. The company’s valuation of $20 billion is twice that of News Corp and seven times more than the New York Times.

The application pulls content from hundreds of sources — news sites, videos and other places online — which it then hosts on its own servers. Using proprietary algorithms, the application then automatically customizes a news feed for each user based on their preferences. The way it does this has created some controversy (and copyright lawsuits) within the media world because oftentimes users don’t click through the stories on its site to the original publishing source. But that’s not the only controversial thing about the company. Its recruiting efforts have drawn the attention of many in China’s tech community.

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China has a reputation of paying low wages to its workers. But not ByteDance.

“Our philosophy is to pay the top of the market to get the best,” the company’s 34-year-old founder Zhang Yiming told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The company that wants to achieve the most, you need the best talent.”  The entrepreneur says he’s willing to pay “unlimited salary for unlimited talent.”  The company has aggressively gone to war with other Chinese tech giants like Baidu and Tencent Holdings, oftentimes luring talent from those companies with salary raises of 50 percent higher plus stock options.

ByteDance’s top earners make more than $1 million a year plus stock options, with total compensation sometimes exceeding $3 million. The $50 billion Chinese venture capital markets have increased tenfold since 2013 and tech companies there are competing for top talent.

Zhang has good reason to pay top dollar. The company has “ambitious” plans to expand and is working on a dozen new applications, including an English version aimed at Americans. Many, however, are questioning whether Zhang’s decision to compete against, rather than forge alliances with China’s top tech companies may hurt him in the long run.

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