Kai-fu Lee, former President of Google China, spoke on the most heated tech topics of the day at the 2016 Geekpark Innovation Festival on Sunday. Topics discussed included machine learning, virtual reality, and O2Os, with Li even offering six pieces of advice for entrepreneurs.
Founding Innovation Works in 2009, a venture capital firm for tech startups, Lee is one of the most well-known VC investors in China. Lee is also an influential microblogger with around 50 million Weibo followers and often offers advice and comments on hot topics with a social influence in China.
1. Geeks are no longer in the minority
Six years ago, geeks were thought to represent IT guys, programmers, engineers and otakus. But six years later, geeks are now those who believe in the power of technology and who dare to venture to change the world with that power. With this ideal or spirit, we call them geeks.
Six years ago, the Internet was just technology. Products of the Internet were merely tools or apps. Now the Internet is everywhere. It penetrates into every corner of our life from food to clothing, to shelter, to travel, to any number of things. Through the Internet, geeks are changing the world we live in.
2. The best way to predict the future is to create it
It is not difficult to predict the future. Firstly, history repeats itself. The things that happened in the era of the PC will also happen in the mobile era.
Secondly, things that happen in China’s tech scene in many cases have already happened in Silicon Valley. America is currently ahead of China in technology. We should learn from the American spirit of innovation.
Thirdly, new technology always brings with it new opportunities, even bigger opportunities. Some people say there is little chance for newcomers because of the dominance of China’s BAT giants. But think about the time before BAT. This was the era of the three portals, Sina, NetEase and Sohu.
Great prophets are the ones who dive into the tech scene to create. They learn the technology, study the products and users. This is far more valuable than to just predict.
3. Introduce new technology in only the most suitable markets
Those currently in VR or AR (augmented reality) are prone to imagining various scenarios, creating various apps and educating consumers how to use them. However, these efforts might all be in vain. It is definitely more suitable to develop VR for the entertainment business, machine learning for ads, finance, insurance and securities, and robots for industry and manufacture. Every new technology will be of great demand in one market or another. Follow the most suitable market for a particular technology, and save yourself the toil of creating a need and then educating users.
I have faith in technologies like machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence, robots, VR and driverless cars.
4. The best entrepreneur is an industry expert combined with geek spirit
Six years ago, a competent product manager and a technical man were enough to make an app. But now Internet practitioners need to make more than apps, since the Internet is expanding into every aspect of our lives. Technology startups need professionals from different industries. For instance, Zaijia.com, a company that makes smart video devices, has people who know a lot about video conferencing. A decoration O2O company has experts in home decorating. So we investors are looking for entrepreneurs with industry knowledge in specific fields combined with the geek spirit.
5. Content-driven businesses show great potential
The power of the Internet is that once it touches on an industry it can transform it completely. An example can be seen in how the internet has changed the mobile industry. Right now, content-oriented businesses are the most promising businesses. The post 90’s generation, which grew up with the mobile Internet, is the main driver for this business. They are the reason that the Kuso comic community and Baozou comics are popular. The reality debate show “QiPaShuo” broadcast over the Internet, is exceptionally popular among the youth. It has earned hundreds of millions of RMB in annual advertising revenue, thanks to advertisers and sponsors transferring from conventional advertising channels to Internet channels. But ads are not the only way to generate income, there are various ways of earning revenue through virtual products, including through micro transactions in video games. VR will change the content-oriented industry and will be profitable. We think that VR will be very promising.
6. We live in the era of the geek
From the angle of the capital market, the winter for capital is here. It is now much harder for entrepreneurs to raise funds than one year before. But, thinking about the huge market, the potential of the Internet and the maturity of technology, I have never seen a better time to start a business than before. China has more than 700 million Internet users and has more than 350 million users able to pay directly through their smartphones. Given this huge market, a final requirement would be for an agile mind able to detect and capture market opportunities through emerging technologies.
(Top photo from Baidu Images.)