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    The challenge is the best opportunity for investment. Kai-fu Lee: The worst company in the worst era

    2019-02-02 11:15:24

    Casting the net Michele

    "In the era of the rise of AI, if you just waited for the rabbits, waiting for those super models to hit the business genius, colliding with ideas, just knocking on our door, our investment speed must not be fast enough." This is Li Kaifu's recent views. In his view, now that the capital winter challenges, the era of arbitrageurs has ended, and the home of the doers has arrived.

    Dr. Kai-fu Lee, who is called "AI Superman" by his colleagues, has too many labels: Microsoft, Google Chinese executives, AI experts, Weibo V, young entrepreneurial tutors, venture capitalists...

    Before the advent of cancer in 2013, his career could be said to be smooth: he joined Apple, Microsoft and Google's three major technology giants, and quickly gained the utmost entanglement. In 1995, he became the youngest vice president of Apple. In 1998, he founded Microsoft China Research Institute. (Predecessor of Microsoft Research Asia), led Google China business in 2005; in 2009, founded innovative workshops.

    Going back, he was 11 years old from Taiwan to the United States, and his computer speech recognition rate was increased from 40% to 80% during his doctoral period. He is considered a computer technology genius. At the age of 26, his doctoral thesis was reported in the New York Times. Become the youngest assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

    These achievements are due to his closeness in the past few decades.robotOverload mode: 15 to 6 hours a day, transforming everything in life, including friendship, work and family time, into algorithmic variables. "This algorithm was developed to achieve its own career planning. The goal is to make the working hours, social reputation and professional status the best form." As Li Kaifu likes in the movie "Death Poetry Society", the famous saying:Just fight for the day and night, grab every moment to extract the essence of life.

    A cancer in 2013 reshaped his world. After escaping from the hands of death, Kai-Fu Lee began to re-examine his life and decided to adjust his life algorithm to slow down the rhythm.

    He shortened the use of social networks, working only three days a week, trying to maintain seven and a half hours of sleep per day and three to four hours of exercise every week; he was decentralized at work, shifting his focus to formulating and adjusting corporate strategies and projects. At the end of the day, he stayed with him; he spent the rest of his life with his family, caring for the osmanthus fragrance of his friend’s family and the university application of his younger daughter. Even so, in 2018, he participated in dozens of programs and interviews at home and abroad, and also published new books, although these figures have been greatly reduced compared to his 2013 illness.

    His continuous improvement has pushed him to the forefront of technology and the peak of global business, and has also promoted the success of the innovative workshops he founded.

    Today, the Innovation Workshop manages a $2 billion dual-currency fund, with the investment phase shifting from the early angels to the A-C round. It has invested more than 300 companies in AI and big data, consumption upgrades, education, culture and entertainment, B2B&; corporate services and other fields. The 50+ project has a valuation of over US$100 million, including many Mito, Vision Technology, and Bit. Well-known projects such as the mainland, Yonghui Yunchuang, Horizon, Mobai, Zhihuo, VIPKID, Miwei Media.

    At the end of 2018, Kai-Fu Lee was selected into the "WIRED" connection magazine "25 people who changed the world." These 25 people are considered to have the most important influence on the global changes of the past quarter century: in addition to Kai-Fu Lee, there are also big names such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Tiel. guy.


    At the end of the 20th century, the time of history, the returnees, businessmen, geeks, and capital promoters turned their eyes to China. In 1999, Li Yanhong, Chen Yizhou, Zhou Yunfan, Shao Yibo, Shen Nanpeng and other returnees returned to China and stepped into the Internet tide. At the same time, Ma Yun, Chen Tianqiao, Zhu Jun, Li Guoqing and other local entrepreneurs with overseas vision also started their own Internet entrepreneurship.

    In 1998, in BeijingZhongguancunThe Sigma Building in Zhichun Road has a major event that has had a profound impact on the Chinese AI community: Kai-Fu Lee accepted Microsoft's invitation to set up a research team in China and build a technology and talent center. Microsoft China Research Institute (Microsoft Research Asia) The MSRA predecessor was born.

    For the next 20 years, Microsoft China Research Institute has become one of the cradle of talent in China's computer industry. The AI ​​Whampoa Military Academy has exported a number of technical tycoons, including the core founders and technical backbones of many AI unicorns, such as Today headline AI Lab head Ma Weiying, former Jinshan CEO Zhang Hongjiang, Baidu president Zhang Yaqin and so on.

    As the pioneer of MSRA, Kai-Fu Lee not only founded MSRA from 0 to 1, but also developed a talent attraction and training mechanism, which became the basis for the emergence of MSRA talents.

    In 2005, Kai-Fu Lee left Microsoft and began to set up Google China. Kai-Fu Lee said that he almost operated Google China as an independent company. He hires new employees to help them connect with the headquarters and has to find ways to run the company in China. At the same time, he also brought the talent training model of Microsoft. When Li Kaifu left, Google China has cultivated a group of entrepreneurs in the mobile Internet era, and its revenue has grown from zero to 500 million US dollars.

    Working at Google, Li Kaifu felt the rapid development of the Android market and the Chinese mobile Internet era. This became one of the motives for his subsequent entrepreneurship.

    In 2009, Li Kaifu, who was nearly 50 years old, gave up the renewal conditions of Google's excellent and decided to be the boss. He founded his own venture capital innovation workshop and transformed himself into an angel investor. At the time, this news caused a lot of puzzles. For example, Yu Minhong, the founder of New Oriental, asked Li Kaifu, "You are almost 50 years old. What is easy to do?"

    Thanks to Li Kaifu's high reputation in the Chinese technology circle, the innovation workshop is almost born with a golden key: in addition to receiving a lot of capital and industrial support, it is easy to get the first fundraising, and also won a lot of “the Magi”. Followed by Wang Hua, who graduated from Stanford and served as Director of Strategic Development of Google China, Tao Ning, former Google China Operations Director, Cai Xueyu, former architect of Alipay, and Lin Biao, former partner of Dacheng Law Firm.

    However, after the embarrassment, Kai-fu Lee soon learned the taste of entrepreneurial hardship.

    The first is the project. Most of the entrepreneurial programs that come out of the company are “making shoes, flying flying saucers, and even building martial arts halls”. There is almost no way to start. On the other hand, the company is facing financial constraints because the investment is not in place. At one time, several partners were only able to pay their own wages; at the same time, the initial incubator model was also questioned. For example, Yi Kai Capital CEO Wang Wei once wrote an article questioning: Can real creative entrepreneurs be compared? Can real creative entrepreneurs be mass produced?

    At the same time, savvy investors are still cautious about this star institution that has not yet had a transcript. When the second phase of the fund was raised, Kai-Fu Lee flew 13 cities around the world and saw a circle of people, eventually reaching $185 million.

    Under all kinds of doubts, Li Kaifu felt the pressure and increased the degree of desperation. "I often wake up at 2 o'clock in the middle of the night, get up and return to Email. After I replied, I went to sleep, and then I woke up at 5 o'clock, and then got up and returned to Email. It wasn't my sleep that was born with little pressure. It was too stressful. The resistance is weakened, which may be the cause of illness later," he recalls.

    Huang Jixin, the founder of the Innovation Workshop, was amazed. "It doesn't take a break to start. It takes almost two days for him to do it in one day!"

    At the same time, in order to expand his influence and help promote his project, Li Kaifu did not hesitate to perform cross-talks.I don’t go to a lecture for less than a thousand people; I can’t add 10,000 fans every day, and I feel that the content is not enough. Someone emailed me about entrepreneurship, I only responded to those who might succeed..."Li Kaifu once recalled.

    The innovation workshop also adjusted the business model from a simple “incubation” to an “incubation+investment” model. The star investment team behind it provides detailed guidance for each grassroots entrepreneur, including how to structure the product, how to recruit employees, how to find financing, and even how to register a company.

    According to previous reports from Caijing, entrepreneurs commented on Kai-Fu Lee’s investment style.: He is the most difficult investor to be fooled by, looking at data, doing background checks and systematic analysis.In the first four years of its establishment, Kai-Fu Lee saw more than 5,000 projects and only invested 50 in the end.

    In this way, the investment in innovative workshops will finally get better in 2011.Subsequently, its investment model has undergone a new iteration, turning to “early investment + entrepreneurial incubation + mentor guidance”. Kai-Fu Lee once said that entrepreneurs go it alone, starting from scratch, the probability of entering the A round of financing is 20%, but after the incubation of the innovation workshop, this probability can be increased to 50%.

    The innovation workshop is getting better and better, and Li Kaifu, who is running like a machine, has received a signal of death. In 2013, he was diagnosed with the fourth stage of lymphoma. After 17 months of anti-cancer treatment, the cancer cells were finally controlled. He reflected on his former way of life in his illness,"One person always thinks about expanding his influence. In fact, he is pursuing fame and fortune!

    In addition, he found that"The company can't do without you" is a mistake that the CEO can easily make."If one day you go, the company is dumped, it proves your value. This is actually wrong. This proves that you, as CEO, have not fulfilled your duties and made the company's decentralization. Be aware that you Not as important as you think."

    In his view, as a CEO, you must spend 20%-30% of the time to find someone, looking for someone is not just HR."The right to recruit people cannot be decentralized. First-rate people hire second-rate people, second-rate people hire third-rate people. Your goal is to maintain the company's culture and retain good people, and the team cares more about completing KPIs. Going to equity...so it’s very likely that no one can get in.”

    Kai-Fu Lee revealed that in the days when he left, the innovation workshop formed a working mode that was determined by his own duties and decided independently.“There are a lot of great cases that were cast at the time. When I was not there, it might be the best time for the team to play. Because they have a sense of responsibility and a sense of ownership.” Today, his work mentality is very different from before. It is. Although it continues to interact with young people as always, it is much more calm than before.

    In 2018, Kai-Fu Lee outlined the new orientation of the 3.0 era for the innovation workshop:The first “TechVC” in China, with a full range of entrepreneurial services, helps young Chinese entrepreneurs to build world-class enterprises. In the future, we will establish medical AI, education AI, robotics, machine learning theory, and calculations in the “scientific research + engineering laboratory” model. 5 major laboratories in finance.

    China Venture Colosseum

    “Today, Chinese entrepreneurs are already very powerful. If you put a top entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and a top entrepreneur in China on Mars – if there is life on Mars – let them compete, I bet almost Chinese entrepreneurs will win.” In an interview with the video content platform Robin.ly in December 2018, Kai-Fu Lee said seriously to the camera.

    In the early Chinese venture capital circle, Chinese entrepreneurs could hardly escape the word “imitation”. The “Copy to China” Silicon Valley model is very popular: every small Internet innovation on the other side of the ocean can find a model for reference in China. People have even formed a set of established success paths: learning the successful business model of the United States at the fastest speed, quickly localizing, winning users, earning income, and then going to the US capital market IPO.

    Wang Xing, founder and CEO of the US group, is an expert in business model iteration. In 2005, 2007 and 2010, based on the American social networking sites Friendster, Facebook and Groupon, he founded the intranet, rice and beauty groups. By the end of 2017, Groupon's market value has shrunk to 2.58 billion US dollars, and its share price is not one-fifth of its 2011 IPO. The US group has been strangled in the "Thousand Regiments" and has innovated its business model and become China. One of the largest internet companies.

    Examples like Wang Xing and Mei Tuan are too numerous to mention. In Kai-Fu Lee's view, when analyzing the success of Wang Xing and other Chinese entrepreneurs, Western observers made an important mistake. They believe that the success of Chinese companies is because they imitate the excellent entrepreneurial ideas of American companies, and they are also opposed by the Chinese government. Protection of local companies. Therefore, even if the market competition in China's Internet is not so intense, local companies are inherently weak, and because they are protected, they can live well in the competition.

    He believes that, on the contrary,China’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is actually a “colosseum”. Because of the fierce competition between similar companies, Chinese companies are constantly innovating. To survive in China's Internet arena, companies need to continually iterate over products, manage costs, perform well, and conduct positive public relations to earn high valuations to raise huge amounts of money and build a moat.

    In this series of tests of blood and fire, I have trained the world's toughest entrepreneurs. In Li Kaifu's view, in order to gain a competitive advantage and survive, many Chinese startups have already passed the stage of imitating, and their products or business models have often undergo several rounds of local innovation and “mutation”. In the end, the precious crystallization left by China's imitation era is not a product, but an entrepreneur.

    "For WeChat, for example, it doesn't have the moment to let the world fall like the iPhone. But today's WeChat is still an amazing innovation, Tencent has done, just constantly adding the features users need to the product. In the middle, iteratively iterates and eliminates the functions of nobody." Kai-fu said.

    To this end, he suggested that Chinese Americans should not underestimate this. “I have been working in China for such a long time, and I really appreciate that the entrepreneurs of all the projects we have invested in are growing very fast. Many returnees think that they have studied doctors in the United States and worked hard, so they are better. I am myself. I also worked in the United States. If I send the young me back, it is also a dead end. So what is my suggestion? If you want to start a business, you should first return to China to start a business!"

    The challenge is the best opportunity to invest

    However, the Chinese venture capital circle is facing an unprecedented winter. A year ago, the domestic venture capital market was still in full swing and triumphantly. Nowadays, the bottleneck of the demographic dividend and the lack of stamina in the traffic market have brought about a new round of reshuffle.

    In the cold winter, many investors are busy avoiding the wind and rain, but the innovation workshop is doing the opposite:In 2018, the Innovation Works completed the fourth phase of the US dollar in four phases; the third phase of the fund went to Guangzhou and invested in a number of quality projects in 2018.

    In the cold winter, the innovation workshop also updated its investment system. Following the "third wave of demographic dividends" theory proposed in 2018, the Innovation Workshop proposed a new concept of "China's economic cube". Its implication is thatChina is like a Rubik's cube. It consists of population, geography, industry, and industrial chain (front-end back-end). In the unbalanced development of these dimensions, there are new sub-platform opportunities, and market disruptive opportunities are still emerging.This is also the reason why China's economy and consumption have slowed down, but there are still a large number of high-growth companies.

    andAI automation, consumer grading, sinking market and overseasNew WorldIt will be a new investment growth point.For these emerging investment opportunities, the Innovation Workshop gives the theory and direction.

    The first dimension is the population area.From the perspective of population and future consumption growth potential, first-tier cities, second-tier cities, and third- and fourth-tier cities are three economies at different stages of development. "This is the past many years. Everyone thinks that Ali and JD.com have already finished the e-commerce, but they have come up with a lot of companies, such as Beide," said Wang Hua, co-founder of Innovation Workshop.

    The second dimension is the commercial development band.Including industrial expansion to capital intensification, and then to the development of information technology. China's market economy has only developed for a few decades, and there are characteristics of the above-mentioned three-band coexistence, thus cultivating subversive development opportunities. For example, Wang Hua, “In the United States, traditional VISA and banks are very strong, and online payment development is difficult. After the development of online payment in China, online payment companies have begun to integrate traditional banks. So any successful technology company in China. The scale of development can be much larger than the upper limit that US technology companies can achieve in a single market."

    The third dimension is the uneven development of the industrial chain.The development of the Internet in China's front-end and back-end is uneven – the front-end has become one of the most developed in the world, and the back-end part that supports the front-end development is very backward. “There is room for improvement in the uneven development of any stage, and it also means investment opportunities. These opportunities will not be less than the investment opportunities brought by traditional front-end Internet giants such as Ali and Tencent in the past few years,” said Wang Hua.

    In the fourth dimension, industry differentiation and development are uneven, and subdivision growth emerges.From the perspective of demand, China's three economies are at different stages of development and face different consumption structures. For example, Wang Hua, “For example, the demand for basic education in the third-tier economies is rising sharply, while the demand for first-tier economies has slowed down. Different economies are at the turning point in the transformation of different consumption structures.”

    Finally, the overseas market contains the "New World."China's diversified economies have developed many new models and products, which are very suitable for Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East, Africa and other regions. This is a huge market with a population of 3 billion.

    "The worst times will brew the greatest company. When faced with big challenges, it is the best opportunity to invest or start a business. In the era of the rise of AI, if we just waited for the rabbits, waiting for those super modes to hit the business genius, colliding with ideas, just knocking on our door, our investment speed must not be fast enough.Li Kaifu stressed at the "Foresight 2019" investment trend sharing meeting held at the end of 2018 at the Innovation Workshop.

    The old order is disintegrating and the new order is rebuilding. Today, the era of arbitrageurs has ended, and the home of the doers has arrived.

    Zhang Ying, a partner of the Innovation Workshop, shares the same feeling. "After every economic crisis, we can see the birth of a bigger company.If there is no winter and you can't kill the virus, you will get more people, so winter is a good thing.

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