Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and now CEO of Sinovation Ventures, announced on Monday that he’s building a new AI company called Project AI 2.0 that will focus on developing ChatGPT-like apps, as well as an ecosystem for AI-powered productivity tools. 

Lee shared his thoughts on the latest AI trends, including the concepts of AI 1.0 and 2.0 on March 14, at Sinovation Ventures’ headquarters in Beijing. He said he considers ChatGPT to be a major breakthrough in deep learning, driving AI into the 2.0 era.

Why it matters: As a renowned AI expert and venture capitalist, Lee said he sees AI as providing an opportunity to reconstruct almost all existing applications, just as Microsoft redesigned Microsoft Office into Copilot, giving Word, Excel, and other mainstream productivity tools AI and generative capabilities.  

  • Lee founded Sinovation Ventures in 2009. One of its AI startups, AInnovation, was founded in 2018 to develop artificial intelligence products for manufacturing, telecommunications, and finance industries, and went public in Hong Kong last January.

Details: Lee is currently seeking global talent in the fields of large language models (LLMs), natural language processing (NLP), multi-modality, AI algorithm, and infrastructure. The newly established company is also seeking fundraising.

  • Sinovation Ventures has confirmed that multiple technical experts with experience in leading teams in major tech companies have expressed interest in joining the project, according to Chinese media outlet Yicai.
  • “Every field can rewrite their existing apps with the aim of creating a more profitable model,” Lee said in his Sinovation Ventures speech, adding that the generative capabilities of AI 2.0 will ultimately reduce costs to almost zero.
  • Lee sees three phases of AI application development. The first phase of popular AI apps is more likely to appear in content, where the margin for error is more tolerable. AI would then be used in more demanding fields such as finance and education, to assist automatic trading and language teaching for example. The third phase would be automatic AI, with AI capable of being applied wherever it’s needed.  
  • Lee also sees AI providing opportunities to companies that are ten times bigger than those of the mobile internet era, and accessible to Chinese participants for the first time. 
  • During the speech on March 14, Lee indicated that if he were at Microsoft, he would prioritize transforming Office tools first rather than just focusing on embedding GPT into search, a piece of advice that coincided with Microsoft’s announcement of Copilot, a reworked Office with AI ability, three days later. 

Context: Lee is the latest tech leader in China tech to turn his attention to launching AI startups. Meituan co-founder Wang Huiwen is setting up an AI startup Guangnian Zhiwai to develop an alternative to ChatGPT, with his closest ally Wang Xing, who is also a co-founder of Meituan, committing himself to invest in Series A financing of the startup.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.