Erik Zhang is a core developer and co-founder of the NEO Smart Economy. He is mainly focused on development activities as part of NEO Global Development, but also helps guide the network as co-chair of the NEO Foundation.
Zhang was born and raised in Shanghai, China. He graduated University in 2009 and initially began working in the information security industry. Five years later, he moved to Shanda Games Limited, a Chinese online game operator and book publisher based in Shanghai, where he also worked on information security. It was at Shanda where he first encountered Bitcoin. After leaving Shanda, he worked for Huobi in Beijing where he attended a Bitcoin conference in 2014. It was at this conference that he met fellow NEO co-founder Da Hongfei, who was attending as a guest speaker. Da Hongfei first shared the vision for AntShares at this conference, which Zhang found appealing due to his initial interest in Bitcoin.
In mid 2014, Zhang left Huobi to return to Shanghai and meet with Da Hongfei. It was here where the AntShares concept was further refined, with Zhang mainly responsible for building the first functional prototype. AntShares was originally designed to serve as an application for the digitization of assets, but later the pair decided to expand the design to include a full smart contract system. This would allow the creation of new tools for asset registration and allow the use of digital identities, enabling the maintenance of real world assets in the digital world using programming as an alternative to trust. To match the new vision, Zhang and Da re-branded AntShares to NEO.