Kai-Fu Lee, the recently resigned head of Google China, is betting big on tech in the Middle Kingdom -- $115 million big. Lee, the latest character in Google's ongoing brain drain drama, announced on Sunday that he is forming his own venture called Innovation Works. With $115 million in total funding provided by tech giants such as YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and Terry Gou, chairman of electronics manufacturer Foxconn, Beijing-based Innovation Works sets out to become an incubator for new Chinese companies in mobile computing, e-commerce and cloud computing.
With Lee on a media blitz promoting his new company, tech pundits have begun to weigh in on his gamble. What's everyone saying?
- The Man Himself In an interview with Businessweek, Lee stated that his firm will fill an important void in China, especially as the country builds a larger appetite for risk. "It's a unique fit for China because Chinese entrepreneurs are less experienced and more in need of this kind of matchmaking: smart entrepreneurs with smart business people with smart engineers with ideas that have been vetted -- and money."
- Hungry for Risk? Sarah Lacy from TechCrunch is skeptical when it comes to Lee's plans to hire 100-150 young Chinese engineers to innovate the web. Can Lee really attract talent with established names like Microsoft and Google around the corner? "The biggest gamble in Lee's analysis is whether or not that culture of risk taking is indeed changing in China. The question isn't whether he'll find 100-150 kids to employ, it's whether he'll be able to pull the best ones."
- Can it Live Up to its Name? Shel Israel from Global Neighbourhoods asks if innovation can happen in China, a country where a top-down government tends to regulate a large share of people's lives. "I find the most interesting aspect of Mr. Lee's very interesting move is the name itself. Can Innovation Works make innovation actually work in China?"