Chinese Market Is Always Blowing Incredible Bubbles
Highlight: “When he is talking about AI, his eyes are shining”
“The end of logic is not the kingdom of order ruled by pure reasons, but love devoted with life.”
2019, in Las Vegas, United States. Gloria Ai and Kai Yu met again at International Consumer Electronics Show (“CES”) to keep their promise made one year ago. This time, Mr. Yu brings along his prospering company, Horizon Robotics, and latest research findings on AI over Edge Computing.
There have been ups and downs in AI field. This storm went overheated and cooled down several times. Too many speculators piled in and out frequently, left only few survivors, who are either AI elite or fanatic AI fans. While Kai Yu, used to be a scientist, falls into both groups.
Watching by the edge of AI for past twenty years, he involved in every milestone of “AI evolution”. He worked in NEC Research Institute (US), Microsoft, Computer Science Department of Stanford University (as Adjunct Professor), Siemens and Baidu. In 2015, Kai Yu finally built his own Utopia, “Horizon Robotics”. This time he wants to fly with the storm himself.
“AI chip without software and ecology system is only a single piece of stone.” said Kai Yu, the “house” of our Chinese people is built on a “foundation” laid by someone else. Since we did not do foundation work, so the house is rickety. The true industry has not thoroughly understood what exactly AI chip is, nor followed the profound thinking about “combining software and hardware”. This is the most important problem Chinese AI community is facing now, and also the main motive for Kai Yu to establish Horizon Robotics.
“I will develop China's own AI Chips.” It never rains but it pours. Being low-profile for two decades, Kai Yu officially took off with a high profile. Horizon Robotics is committed to develop a “machine brain”, to create “AI Inside” for this era of everything smart and empower numerous devices and products used in our daily life with “brains”.
In 2018 CES, Gloria Ai had also conversed with Kai Yu. Compared to that time, though Mr. Yu is still a scientist entrepreneuring alone, much obviously he is calmer now and with firmer eyes.
Because what he is doing, is what he has loved for all his life and is his most real ideality.
“Chinese market is always blowing incredible bubbles”
Gloria Ai: It has been one year since our last interview in CES 2018. Obviously to me you are more confident than last time, and more cheerful. But I still remember it clearly one year ago you told me, entrepreneurship is rather a lonely journey. You have to enjoy loneliness when many others cannot understand you nor support you; when many understand you at last, perhaps the battler has been over. So when you come to Las Vegas this year, what do you feel? As the founder of Horizon Robotics, are you still lonely?
Kai Yu：I think we could look at it from two sides. On one side from perspective of our business development, we are increasingly recognized among the industry. And AI chips and Edge Computing initiated by Horizon Robotics are turning out to be the industry trend. So looking from this side, I seem feel not that lonely.
Kai Yu: But on the other side an entrepreneur is always hoping to find out the tenuous signal under a noisy background. That signal is leading to future but certainly not everyone can see it. Usually something everyone can see is worth nothing. So entrepreneur himself should naturally enjoy and take advantage of loneliness to find the super lonely path which is leading to future.
Gloria Ai: Market of AI chip was getting hotter in 2018. But hot also means bubbles. What have you observed in the market as bubbles, or as the truth? What could be done and what could not?
Kai Yu: Chinese market is always blowing incredible bubbles. Personally, I think in the overall mindset of Chinese people, following the crowd prevails. While the ability of doing critical thinking is not that popular yet. It's better for Horizon Robotics not to be affected too much in this way. We still have to find the signal from noises, to think about our strategy, how to build a strong company, how to Better connect us with our clients. These are core questions for us to think about. As for how the capital market will see us, or how the media will see us, we should not pay so much attention to it.
One year ago, Kai Yu told iAsk that “many said scientists are unsuited for entrepreneurship due to their personality traits. The more you are as a scientist, the more you prefer deliberating and trying things until all necessary conditions are ready. But I have learned one lessen, no matter how smart you think you are, how comprehensive your proposal is, how well you know the situation, once getting into the battle, the ever changing circumstances will overwhelm your existing experience. The only thing you should do is to be brave.”
It took Horizon Robotics only three years from inception to their product debut. Their technologies have also widely applied in various areas such as smart driving, smart city management, smart security and smart retail. In 2019 CES, the Matrix Autonomous Driving Computing Platform by Chinese startup company Horizon Robotics won the Innovation Award. The reality proved that brave scientist Kai Yu has found the “signal” he is searching for and received the “recognition” he wants.
Journey of pursuing ideality is destined to be lonely, but such loneliness is destined to be extraordinary. In order to build China’s own foundation of AI, Kai Yu kept observing this area for twenty years and turned down the “olive branches” offered by all big platforms to construct his own “Utopia” instead. Both the misunderstanding and nonsupport from others, or variable challenges and circumstances, all brought him surely the feeling of immense loneliness. But he still submerges himself in it, even enjoys it with courage and take advantage of it to make breakthroughs. Writer Tong Liu once said: You are lonely; it is a glorious “defeat”. This quote is only suitable to describe people like Kai Yu who are strong inside.
“When he is talking about AI, his eyes are shining”
Year of 2018 is called the inflection point of large-scale application of AI technology. AI chips at core place attracted great attention. Industry giants such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, AMD and Alibaba started one after another to develop their own chips. In the face of challenges, Kai Yu told us, if edge computing platforms like Horizon Robotics want to add true value, they must secure partners and related ecology system is also inseparable. Therefore, they need to be more active and to help each other. They should strive for coexistence by differentiated capabilities and narrow the gap between Horizon Robotics and final application scenarios through overlapping.
He is no one else but Kai Yu who has been latent for 20 years before “turning up to do something”. His vision surely will reach far enough. Although for the time being, he keeps reminding himself to ignore the fact that he is a scientist and asking himself with the standards of a company's CEO, who should have major characteristics such as “balancing” and “pragmatic”. But at least so far, he still preserves the “idealism” of a scientist in him and a born “world-engaged” heart of intellectual.
“From the very first day of Horizon Robotics, we hope to develop it into a platform. What we are doing is the platform of AI over Edge Computing. So in fact Horizon Robotics is the Horizontal Platform for Robotics. To achieve this goal, from my point of view it might take us at least 15 years. We have enough patience to do this, to collect and transform potential energy into kinetic energy. In the short term we don’t have any consideration of being acquired. We hope we can become a giant ourselves.”
What Kai Yu wants to do is to develop Horizon Robotics into a world leading chip company. Investment is merely one of his tools, a vehicle which he could make use of to build an ecology system through devoting himself. It might not be accurate to say he does not want to be rich. What he desires much more is to make some breakthrough, creating China’s own “foundation” in this industry and achieving his career goal. So, when it comes to talking about “acquisition”, some reluctance IS revealed in his response, and the ephemeral frowning on his face IS also visible.
Gloria Ai: I see it as under a prestigious name, it is usually not what it should be. I don't want you to show us such an image. What are you going to do to match your name?
Kai Yu: You must have a clear business path. I think entrepreneur must accommodate both sense and sensibility. His idealism and realism must be merged together. To do something most fantastic, revolutionary, and rationalistic while with the most realistic attitude.
Gloria Ai: If you are asked to make two predictions, one about yourself ten years later, and another one about Horizon Robotics ten years later. How would you forecast the future?
Kai Yu: I hope ten years later I myself would be an entrepreneur regardless how rich I will be, but most importantly I want to be a more thoughtful entrepreneur.
Gloria Ai: Then how about Horizon Robotics after ten years? Still with the same slogan: To be the number one chip company in the world?
Kai Yu: We hope this will still be our goal ten years later. We hope to become the largest platform of AI over Edge computing in the world.
No matter as a scientist or as an entrepreneur, idealism in Kai Yu is both practical and sensible. It can be said that people who chasing their dreams are all emotional, with far greater subjective feelings than material needs. During our conversation, two words he said most were “I” and “AI”. Maybe to him these are most important things in life. Observe carefully and you will notice the pair of smart eyes under his glasses are shining firmly when he is talking about these.
Love of life is strong enough to support all logic, and this is the “signal” mentioned by Kai Yu, at the moment which appears, the whole world will turn red. He has a magnificent dream and is not afraid to speak it out just as he is not afraid to keep it. Or probably, he is even not afraid of failure. He just wants to go further toward that direction.
“A place with horizon mush be a vast one. It is at the end of sky and earth, it is the end of dream. A man running towards where horizon is reaching out to, must be a man with dream. Compatible to vast sky and open earth, the horizon will extend as far as it could be.”