Kai-Fu Lee, who last week resigned as president of Google China, has launched Innovation Works, an incubator for Chinese IT startups. It has been funded with $115 million, including from lead investor WI Harper Group. Other backers include Steve Chen (co-founder of YouTube), Terry Gou (chairman of Foxconn), Liu Chuanzhi (chairman of Legend Group) and Yu Minhong (chairman of New Oriental).
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee announced today that he has resigned from Google as Google Vice President and President of Google Greater China to launch Innovation Works, a business creation platform focused on establishing the next wave of Chinese high-technology companies and mentoring the next-generation of Chinese entrepreneurs. Innovation Works will concentrate on Internet, mobile computing, and cloud computing technology advancements targeted at the Greater China market, and build “dream teams” to collect, analyze, prioritize and execute on the most promising ideas.
Innovation Works will be funded with $115 million from an elite group of venture investors including Steve Chen (Co-Founder of YouTube), Terry Gou (Chairman of Foxconn), Liu Chuanzhi (Chairman of Legend Group) and Yu Minhong (Chairman of New Oriental). WI Harper Group is the lead venture capital investor.
“The Chinese entrepreneurial environment is still in its formative stage, with significant barriers for the early-stage entrepreneur: the lack of management experience and coaching, the reluctance of venture capitalists to invest in early-stage companies, and the lack of networking and experience to pull a company together,” said Dr. Lee. “These barriers all contribute to a dearth of high-tech start-ups. Innovation Works is matching entrepreneurs, engineers, ideas, and capital with a unique business model that improves success rates and speeds time-to-market.”
Dr. Lee continued, “Innovation Works will be 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, so that entrepreneurial teams can focus on building great products without distraction. Innovation Works helps accelerate the entrepreneur’s ability to prove ideas, obtain additional external funding, and then spin-off into an independent company.”
Mr. Liu Chuanzhi, Chairman of Legend Group, supports this vision, “With the resilience of the Chinese economy, the abundance of late-stage funding, the newly established China Growth Market Second Board, the emerging 3G and cloud computing, and the exceptional talent pool in China, this is the perfect timing for Dr. Lee’s Innovation Works platform.”
Terry Gou, Chairman of Foxconn, said: “I have known Dr. Lee since he worked for Apple, and I have followed Dr. Lee’s brilliant work from Apple to Microsoft to Google. I am confident that his creative ideas and charismatic leadership will be fully unleashed at Innovation Works. I am very pleased to be one of the founding investors of his new venture.”
Added WI Harper Chairman Peter Liu, “Every year Innovation Works will spin-off three to five companies and WI Harper is delighted to help those companies build an institutional investor syndicate to grow and flourish. Dr. Lee’s experience positions him perfectly to guide these new ventures to successful outcomes, and in doing so deliver value to all shareholders.”
Said Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, “As a co-founder of YouTube and PayPal, I deeply believe that passion and dedication are critical success factors of start-ups. Every time I visited China, I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the entrepreneurs there. I am convinced that Innovation Works will provide the best platform for these entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. ”
Dr. Lee is a seasoned business executive with rich experience in the China market. During his tenure at Google, Dr. Lee built a 700-person organization with many successes. In the past three years, Google China’s market share nearly doubled from 16.1% to 31.0% (Analyses International). Google Map, Google Mobile Map, Mobile Search, and Google Translate have all become #1 in the China market this year.
“I have been very fortunate,” said Dr. Lee. “Google gave me an opportunity to build Google China from the ground up and we rapidly earned market share and revenue growth. I am very proud of the talented team that created the most accurate and complete Chinese search engine and over 50 other successful products. Google China proved that, contrary to our predecessors, foreign Internet companies can prosper in China.”
In addition to his accomplishments in high technology, Dr. Lee has been devoted to fostering the professional growth of Chinese technology students. He has given hundreds of lectures to about 500,000 students, and has written seven public letters and three books for Chinese students. His first book, Be Your Personal Best, sold over one million copies and is still on many best-seller lists. Dr. Lee has built his own website for Chinese students (www.5xue.com) and answered thousands of questions from students. Dr. Lee is one of the most popular figures with young people in China. Today’s announcement provides a new platform for Dr. Lee to not only guide young students, but also mentor aspiring entrepreneurs.
More about Dr. Kai-Fu Lee:
Dr. Lee, 47, was born in Taiwan and grew up in the United States. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University (summa cum laude, 1983), and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). At Carnegie Mellon, he developed the first speaker-independent speech recognition system that was selected as the “Most Important Innovation” in 1988 by BusinessWeek. In 1989, he developed an Othello-playing computer program that defeated the world’s human champion.
After teaching for two years at CMU, Dr. Lee joined Apple in 1990, where he became the Vice President of its Interactive Media Group, which developed QuickTime and other technologies. In 1996, Dr. Lee joined Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) where he served as Vice President of the Web Products Division, which developed a $200 million product line of web servers, and also started Cosmo Software.
In 1998, he joined Microsoft where he built from the ground up Microsoft Research Asia, one of the world’s top research labs. MIT Technology Review calls this research lab “the hottest computer science laboratory.” Dr. Lee was promoted to Corporate Vice President in 2000, and he returned to the United States to co-lead Microsoft’s .Net effort.
In the fall of 2005, Dr. Lee joined Google to become a Vice President and its President of Google Greater China.
About Innovation Works:
Founded in September 2009 and led by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, Innovation Works is a business creation platform focused on establishing the next wave of Chinese high-technology companies and mentoring the next-generation of Chinese entrepreneurs. Innovation Works will concentrate on Internet, mobile computing, and cloud computing technology advancements targeted at the Greater China market, and build “dream teams” to collect, analyze, prioritize and execute on the most promising ideas. Innovation Works matches entrepreneurs, engineers, ideas, and capital with a unique business model that improves success rates and speeds time-to-market.