America may have created AI, but China is taking the ball and running when it comes to one of the world’s most pivotal technology innovations.
Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, Lee — who led Google in China before it left the country — said any lead America’s tech industry may have enjoyed is rapidly being eroded by hungry Chinese entrepreneurs who have oodles more data at their disposal to build, train and deploy AI systems.
“People assume that because the U.S. is so strong in AI research, that the U.S. should dominate,” Lee said. “But actually, China is catching up really fast.”
Sinovation already has five AI companies in its portfolio that are valued at over $1 billion — that might be a record for any VC firm worldwide — and he explained China’s “magical ascent” in AI has taken just two years.
“Coming from way behind, now [China] is actually ahead of the U.S. in AI implementation,” Lee said. “AI we should think of it as electricity. Thomas Edison [the inventor of electricity] — and also the AI deep learning inventors who were American — they invented this stuff and then they generously shared it.
“Now, China, as the largest marketplace with the largest amount of data, is really using AI to find every way to add value to traditional businesses, to internet, to all kinds of spaces. The Chinese entrepreneurial ecosystem is huge so today the most valuable AI companies in computer vision, speech recognition, drones are all Chinese companies,” Lee added