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The global hype surrounding ChatGPT has sparked a rush among Chinese AI experts and internet entrepreneurs to launch their own startups, each with a claim of working on the transformative potential of ChatGPT-style models.
Here is a list of Chinese tech specialists who have recently made announcements regarding new ventures in AI technology:
Meituan co-founder Wang Huiwen
Meituan co-founder Wang Huiwen started an AI startup called Guangnian Zhiwai (meaning beyond light years) in February and quickly secured support from Meituan’s current CEO Wang Xing. The startup will acquire AI Infrastructure company OneFlow Technology, through a stock swap, local media outlet Caixin reported on Monday.
OneFlow is both the name of the acquired company and the product name of its deep learning framework, whose competitors include Baidu’s PaddlePaddle and Facebook’s PyTorch.
The acquisition demonstrates the Chinese tech executive’s openly-stated ambition to create the Chinese version of OpenAI, ChatGPT’s parent company backed by Microsoft.
Despite only publicly announcing his entrance into the artificial intelligence field less than two months ago, Wang has already secured a commitment from Meituan CEO Wang Xing, his long-term ally, to invest in the A-series round of fundraising for Guangnian Zhiwai, and take a seat on its board.
“I do not understand AI technology currently, and I’m trying to learn,” Wang Huiwen wrote in a social media post on the microblogging platform Jike in February. He later updated his social media platform with news that the newly-launched company has three co-founders, including a co-creator with an infrastructure background, a co-creator with an algorithm background, and himself.
Ex-ByteDance AI Lab head Wang Changhu
Wang Changhu, former director of ByteDance’s AI Lab, is also reportedly starting a new venture that will specialize in generative AI using a visual multi-modal algorithmic platform for generative AI.
The visual-related direction aligns with Wang’s expertise. He had previously developed visual, pan-AI, and business solutions during his time at ByteDance, which were applied to the company’s news aggregation app Jinri Toutiao, as well as to short video platforms Douyin and TikTok.
While at the Beijing-based firm, Wang also played a significant role in launching an AI tool called Lingquan, which supports image and text recognition to combat “vulgar content” on apps.
After working at ByteDance for four years, he left in late 2021 to join major Chinese property developer Longfor Group, where he was appointed as general manager in charge of the AIoT artificial intelligence engine team.
Former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee
Kai-Fu Lee, a renowned AI talent and entrepreneur, has founded a new AI startup called Project AI 2.0 to build not only a Chinese version of ChatGPT but an ecosystem for AI-powered productivity tools.
The former president of Google China sees ChatGPT as a major breakthrough in deep learning, with AI offering the opportunity to reconstruct almost all existing applications.
Several technical experts who have led teams at major tech companies have reportedly expressed interest in joining Lee’s newly-launched project.
Ex-Alibaba AI expert Jia Yangqing
Jia Yangqing, a prominent figure in the AI field and author of the deep learning framework Caffe, has resigned as vice president of Alibaba to pursue his own startup venture. Jia’s entrepreneurial direction will focus on AI infrastructure.
A well-known expert in AI and cloud computing, Jia previously worked for Google and Meta before joining Alibaba. He also led the development of PyTorch and TensorFlow during his time at Google and Meta. While studying for a computer science doctorate at UC Berkeley, he wrote Caffe, a widely adopted open-source deep-learning framework, used by multiple major tech companies including Adobe, Microsoft, and Nvidia.
Former Kuaishou exec Li Yan
In 2022, Li Yan, ex-lead of Kuaishou’s multimedia understanding unit, left the short video company after seven years and founded Yuanshi Technology to develop a large multimodal model. The AI start-up confirmed this to local media outlet 36Kr earlier this month.
Li was seen as the core of Kuaishou’s AI tech development, having formed a deep learning team in late 2015 with the support of the then-CEO of the company Su Hua.
The initial goal of the team was to use algorithms to detect pirated and offensive video content and later expanded its focus to include the development of algorithmic models for various types of speech, text, and images.
Former JD Cloud & AI chief Zhou Bowen
Zhou Bowen, the former president of JD’s Cloud & AI unit, wrote on Feb. 26 that he was looking for talented individuals with a strong belief in “AI’s ability to change the world” to join his startup, Xianyuan Technology.
Three days later, the Beijing-based company, which was founded less than two years ago, announced it had secured hundreds of millions of yuan in an angel round led by Qiming Venture.
“China’s answer to ChatGPT doesn’t necessarily need an OpenAI imitator, but it certainly needs a team with a clear vision to help accelerate the development of AI technology and industry digital intelligence,” Zhou wrote in his WeChat post announcing the financing.
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