(Bloomberg Businessweek) — Born in China, Li adopted the English name “Forrest” after watching Forrest Gump; the warmth, persistence, and courage of the title character appealed to him. In June 2005, while he was getting his master’s degree at Stanford, he attended his girlfriend’s graduation ceremony at the school—the famous one at which Steve Jobs told graduates that life’s dots can be connected only by looking backward, not forward. Inspired, Li, who’d spent his undergraduate days in Shanghai playing video games until dawn, founded his online gaming company in Singapore in 2009. He took it public in New York in 2017, by which point it had added an e-commerce platform, Shopee.
Sea’s initial stock rally was fueled by the success of the mobile game Free Fire, a battle-royal-style title that had more than 100 million peak daily active users in the second quarter. That success, combined with Shopee’s emergence as a top online shopping site in Southeast Asia, has swelled investor optimism that the unprofitable company could one day become a mashup of gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Shares of Sea are up more than 300% this year, boosting Li’s net worth to more than $9 billion.
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