Women in Tech: Zhou Qunfei

The self-made billionaire is the founder of a major glass provider for smart devices.

Zhou Qunfei

Zhou’s story is one that will inspire you to never stop learning, and to never give up. She was born in 1970 in Xiangxiang, Hunan province, China, the youngest of three children. As a child she helped her family raise animals for livelihood and a small profit. This is only the beginning of her story…

Before Zhou was born, her father, a former soldier, became partially blind and lost a finger in an industrial accident. Her mother died when she was only five. Her work ethic started early on when she was a young child – out of all her siblings she was the only one who attended a secondary school. Although she showed promise and was a bright student, she dropped out of school at the age of 16 to become a migrant worker. 

She made the choice to work in Shenzhen near Shenzhen University, so she could enroll in part-time courses. Qunfei enrolled in multiple courses and passed the examinations to be certified for computer operations and custom processing, and was even licensed for driving commercial vehicles. In 1993, at the age of 22, she invested in herself by establishing her own company. This was one of many throughout the years. 

The company appealed to customers because of its promising higher-quality watch lenses. She caught a big break in 2001 when her company won a contract to make mobile phone screens. During the time period when the mobile phone industry was transitioning from plastic to glass, Zhou’s company received a contract to manufacture glass screens for Motorola Razr, while still making watch faces. The hustle never stops. 

Shortly after, Zhou started touch-screen maker Lens Technology, where she soon received orders from other companies, including Nokia, HTC, and Samsung Electronics. After producing touch screens for the Apple iPhone, Lens Technology dominated the industry, becoming the primary supplier of about 75% of its revenue for big names like Apple, Samsung and Huawei. Apple Watches are also made with parts from Zhou’s company, using her glass and sapphire crystal screens. 

Zhou’s dream was always to be a fashion designer, but after working for a small family firm she resigned shortly after only 3 months due to the working conditions. In her resignation letter she expressed her gratitude for the opportunity, and instead the company offered her a promotion because they were touched. Sometimes, there are people who believe in you even when you may not see your potential. When the small family firm folded, Zhou’s cousin encouraged and pushed her to start her own company – where she, her brother, sister, their spouses and two cousins worked out of a three bedroom apartment. Today, she employs more than 90,000 people, and has about 32 different factory locations. Even with all her different success rankings for many things from Forbes, Fortune and Bloomberg, it all started with a dollar and a dream

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