ByteDance has hired Yang Hongxia, former head of the team overseeing Alibaba’s large AI multi-model M6, to lead its AI Lab and to build its generative large language model (LLM), local tech media outlet 36Kr has reported.

Prior to joining Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Yang received her doctorate in statistical science from Duke University and worked as Yahoo’s principal data scientist. Her expertise in cognitive intelligence helped Alibaba launch its 10-trillion-parameter M6, improving the search and recommendation accuracy of shopping app Taobao and payment app Alipay, according to Yang’s account to the ISI World Statistics Conference.

Why it matters: ByteDance is keen to develop its own AI language model, as the success of ChatGPT pushes tech majors to re-evaluate the application of AI in their products and services to stay competitive. 

  • ByteDance has tapped Yang to lead its language generation model team, a person familiar with the matter told 36Kr, and she is expected to report directly to the company’s vice president Yang Zhenyuan.

Details: ByteDance is reportedly planning to prioritize imaging and language in its AI model, with the former to be integrated into its short video platform Douyin and video-cutting tool CapCut, the company’s two most successful apps alongside Douyin sibling platform TikTok.

  • Zhu Wenjia, who currently serves as the head of global search and development for TikTok, has been appointed to oversee the large language and image model teams.
  • M6, an abbreviation of MultiModality-to-MultiModality Multitask Mega-transformer, was introduced by Alibaba’s Damo Academy in March 2021. The model contains 10 trillion parameters and is pre-trained to perform multiple tasks, including generating clothing designs based on prompts, offering concise descriptions of e-commerce goods, and answering common questions, the AI model’s website shows.

Context: Major tech companies and AI startups are chasing experienced AI talent as they rush to develop their own AI offerings.

  • Yang resigned from Alibaba for personal reasons last September, following the departures of several scientists, such as Jin Rong, ex-Alibaba vice president and associate dean at Damo Academy, and Wang Gang, head of the group’s auto driving lab.
  • Another Alibaba VP, Jia Yangqing, also confirmed he had quit the tech giant on Tuesday, with the aim of pursuing a new AI infrastructure venture.

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]