Kai-Fu Lee

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Kai-Fu Lee PEDaily.cn
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Kai-Fu Lee is the founder of Innovation Works, a business incubator based in China that aims to support information technology ventures by providing start-ups necessary funding, sufficient training, and bringing in to the team the right people to ensure profitability. Kai-Fu, who used to work for Apple, Silicon Graphics, Microsoft, and Google, aims to bring home innovation and stimulate IT entrepreneurs to develop cutting-edge technology. With five million followers in Weibo, China’s Twitter, Kai-Fu is one of the most followed netizens in a country where information is heavily censored and filtered.


Why Kai-Fu Lee is Extraordinary

Kai-Fu Lee broke the mold of how a Chinese entrepreneur must be and how an employee of a giant company must do. He worked and contributed to the growth of Apple, Silicon Graphics, Microsoft, and Google. Achievements got him as far as commanding millions for a signing bonus. But Kai-Fu chose to leave what seemed a perfect company to work for. He rather braved the unruly waters of putting up an IT venture in a country where the Internet is closely guarded. China, who proclaims itself as a socialist republic, is wary of letting search engines do as they like.

Kai-Fu was sent to China by Google in order to help them tap the market that boasts of 500 million internet users. It is not new for Kai-Fu who established Microsoft Research Asia, also called Microsoft Research China, considered by many as one of the best computer research laboratories in the world.

Prior to joining technological giants, Kai-Fu has created a buzz in computer programming back as a college student at the University of Columbia. To his classmates, he is a computer genius. He doesn’t break a sweat doing complicated programming tasks. As a college student, he successfully tailor-made a software for a businessman who has a diamond business. It allowed the company to record the weight of each diamond straight to their computer to correlate with records and reduce the likelihood of stealing.

As a Ph.D. student, he created Bill with the help of a 16-year-old boy. Bill beat the human world champion in Othello. He then developed a speech recognition software that can recognize any voice, the first of its kind. Add to that his successful business venture when he was still in high school.

Founding Innovation Works

It would have been easier and more profitable if Kai-Fu stayed with Google. The company has plans of further saturating the whole of Asia and they have hand-picked Kai-Fu to lead the project. Of course, he will be well-compensated. But Kai-Fu is done working for a company. At 47 years old, he founded Innovation Works, which he aims to become:

"The de-facto institution for launching the most promising technology ideas in China. Through the rigorous development and testing of prototypes, and identification of a `founding executive` to lead the venture, Innovation Works will provide capital, manpower, legal, financial and IT support. Our commitment is to mentoring and supporting the next-generation of Chinese entrepreneurs so that they can focus on building great products without distraction." (Source: Reuters)

So far, he is encouraged by the support Innovation Works is getting. Their office was built without charge by the same real estate developer that constructed the stadium for the Beijing Olympics; they are being subsidized by the government; and supported by other organizations. With Innovation Works, he doesn’t only hope to create successful entrepreneurs out of young and promising people, but first and foremost, he’d like to give them a solid foundation on how to conduct honest-to-goodness business that is not only profitable but also socially responsible.

Top Reasons why Kai-Fu Lee is Extraordinary

  1. He graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University.
  2. He created an Othello program called Bill when he was in college. Bill beat a human Othello champion.
  3. He developed the first independent speech recognition system called Sphinx when he was taking up his doctorate studies at Carnegie Mellon University.
  4. He was the first to finish his doctorate degree in 4 and a half years at Carnegie Mellon University.
  5. He was Apple's principal research scientist for six years and helped develop QuickTime, QuickTime VR, QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime Conference, Apple Bandai Pippin, PlainTalk, Casper, GalaTea.
  6. He worked in Silicon Graphics as Web Products division Vice President.
  7. He established Microsoft Research Asia in China.
  8. He was hired by Google and offered an unprecedented compensation package to establish Google.cn.
  9. He is one of the most followed netizen in China with over 5 million Weibo followers.
  10. He was inducted into the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2002 and named one of the most influential people by TIME in 2013.

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