Start-up Diaries: ZhuiYi Technology
Terry Ke is Strategy Director and Head of International Business at China’s leading AI startup, ZhuiYi Technology. Their USP is that they provide Natural Language Processing alongside Enterprise Solutions for businesses, as they attempt to activate the world in AI. He explains their biggest hurdle to developing a worldwide business model and how having an adventurous mindset brought ZhuiYi Technology success and joy
1. The Founders
ZhuiYi was founded by a group of former Tencent employees. The CEO is the youngest top-tier engineer and the former head of Tencent’s AI platform and he specialized in AI-NLP for more than 10 years. I joined this amazing team in 2018 as Strategy Director and helped them through the series C and D fundraising. I am responsible for conceiving the corporate strategy and taking initiative in new businesses. I completed my MBA at Carnegie Mellon University, and have a background in investment and management consulting. I really enjoy my role because I’m working on one of the top emerging technologies and I am able to conceive, strategize and execute my ideas.
2. How the Idea Started
ZhuiYi has positioned itself as an AI digital workforce services provider, helping businesses to cut costs and enhance business performance. Currently in China, as in most developing and developed markets, the demographic dividend is ending and labor costs are increasing. The huge gap between business demand and labor supply is making companies turn to machines to resolve the labor shortages and cut costs.
On the other hand, we have seen many companies developing their IT infrastructure. We can help these companies to leverage data analysis to realize more refined operations and enhance their production capacity. The market demand for AI transformation and smart operations is high. With 10+ years of experience in AI, we are confident we can fulfill the demand and deliver one of the coolest AI solutions out there to our business clients. So, here we go. Our vision is: Activate the World in AI.
3. What is Special About ZhuiYi Technology?
We focus on natural language processing and deep learning. We developed our own AI model which has won a number of top AI-NLP competitions and has been ranked highly on one of the top leaderboards by SuperGLUE (#2).
In addition to our market leading technology, we have also accumulated lots of industry know-how through 200+ large-scale projects across diverse verticals, allowing us to identify a business’ pain point and accurately solve the problem with significant business improvements. Our core AI capability is to create an AI digital workforce for smart service, smart engagement and interactions, which can cover varied scenarios from sales and marketing, to services. Each AI performs just as a human worker would, but with higher efficiency and less chance to underperform.
4. First Milestones
The first and the most important milestone came when we, as a super early start-up, won long-term partnership contracts with DiDi and China Merchants Bank back in 2016 and 2017. DiDi is the Chinese equivalent of Uber, managing the largest riding platform. China Merchants Bank is the #1 retail bank. Partnering with these two giants gave ZhuiYi not only confidence, but a way to validate and fine tune our AI model to real world scenarios, so that our technology and solution could solve real business problems.
5. Competition, Market and Role Models
China and the U.S. are currently the leading players for AI. We’ve seen many AI application use cases being adapted into the markets, such as computational vision and speech intelligence. NLP (Natural Language Processing) is one of the most important domains for cognitive intelligence, which tackles the tasks of human machine interaction, machine translation, text generation and analytics. Google and Facebook are the leading players in the NLP domains in the U.S..ByteDance and Baidu are also our role models in China in terms of the technological depth in NLP. Although they all apply NLP, none of them solely focus on the enterprise solution. Therefore, by focusing on NLP + Enterprise Solution, ZhuiYi has its own competitive advantage.
6. What We Underestimated
We definitely underestimated the difference between languages across regions. As a company which handles natural languages, we manage our home languages – Chinese and Cantonese – well. We have also made great progress with English. However, when it came to managing a language that we were not so familiar with, we found it extremely hard to advance, because it’s difficult for a non-local speaker to train the AI in a way local people would speak and could understand.
We quickly concluded our findings and modified our approach for introducing a new language. We have now established close relationships with lots of local partners and taught them how to train the AI in their language with ourmethodology. With this cooperation, we are now able to use our universal language model to manage many languages, such as Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and more.
7. Our Aha Moment
There are a lot of aha moments, in fact it happens almost every day in a start-up. For me personally, my aha moment was successfully delivering an AI phone bot to a top insurance giant in Singapore this year. I am so grateful to my team for all their dedicated efforts and time.
8. Our Vision: ZhuiYi Technology In 5 Years
We want to initiate AI use across the world. That means, we hope to deploy our AI workforce in not only the domestic markets, but major international markets too.
9. Our Tip for Other Founders
The only constant in life is change. Change is difficult and comes with risk and uncertainty. We embrace each wave of change, work with our talented team, and advance with an adventurous mindset. This way, we are able to grasp opportunities and continue our pace of growth. We hope you can too, because this has brought us so much joy.
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