WIRED magazine recently celebrated its 25th anniversary by picking out important icons that have changed the world throughout the past 25 years, such as Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and Mark Zuckerburg. Recently, Chinese AI-expert Kaifu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures, was chosen as one of the representing icons.
There is no doubt Lee has played a key role in developing the modern tech industry. He started out in Silicon Valley working for tech giants like Apple and Microsoft. The latter appointed him leader of a research group with a mission to develop a technology hub in China. Looking back, it is evident that this research group had a massive impact on China’s rapid technological development. Many of the group members later went on to accomplish more, including Zhang Yaqin who is currently Baidu’s president, and Wang Jian who became the chief technology officer at Alibaba.
After a legal dispute in 2005, Lee left Microsoft and joined Google where he became the head of Google China. He ran the Chinese division almost like an independent company. He had to hire new talents, connect them to headquarters, and understand how to operate businesses in China. The lack of agreement between Google and the Chinese government eventually led to the company’s exit from China, but that was after Lee had already left. He claims that Google China went from zero to about half a billion in revenue by the time of his departure.
In 2009, with over 25 years of experience in the AI field, Lee started an investment company called Sinovation Ventures. At first, the company mainly invested in social networks, education and entertainment before changing its focus to AI. Now they actively invest in early stage technology such as mobile computing, software, robotics, and education sectors.
All the icons chosen by WIRED magazine got to nominate someone they think will change the world within the next 25 years. Lee nominated Feifei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Stanford Vision Lab. When asked if he thinks she will help shape the future, he replied, “Yes, I think of her as the conscience of AI. Very few would stand up and call for things that are important for the future of humankind. It is refreshing. She has a big heart.”