Artificial Intelligence

ByteDance and Kuaishou see exodus of top AI experts to new ventures as China’s unicorn boom looks for next OpenAI

Yang Hongxia, who was involved in research and development of large language models (LLMs) at ByteDance, recently left the Beijing-based company to start preparing for her own AI projects, according to a report by Chinese media 36Kr. LLMs are the technology behind generative AI services like ChatGPT.

Separately, Fu Ruiji – a tech leader at Kuaishou’s Knowledge Graph and LLM projects – left the firm to “prepare for an AI start-up project”, Chinese media outlet LingTai reported.

Details of Yang and Fu’s new endeavours are unclear. They could not be reached for comment.

Both ByteDance and Kuaishou did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Monday.

TikTok owner ByteDance has seen one the members of its artificial intelligence team leave to start a new venture. Photos: Shutterstock
The departure of those experts reflect China’s new unicorn boom that has so far yielded four “AI tigers”, each of which has raised billions of dollars from deep-pocketed investors.
Yang reportedly joined ByteDance to lead the firm’s AI Lab and build its LLM after her late-2022 exit from Alibaba Group Holding, where she headed the team overseeing the Hangzhou-based company’s M6 AI model. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
Before joining Kuaishou in 2021, Fu served as the vice-director at the AI research arm of iFlytek, one of China’s AI champions. He was in charge of the development of Kuaipedia, dubbed as the world’s first “large-scale multi-modal short-video encyclopedia”, and KwaiAgents, an information-seeking agent system with LLMs.


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Wang Changhu, who used to head ByteDance’s vision technology unit, was among a number of AI experts that had left the company in the past three years. In 2023, Wang started his own company called AIsphere and secured a fresh round of financing in March.

Alibaba, which has invested heavily in developing its Tongyi Qianwen AI models, has also seen the departure of a number of top AI specialists since last year. Jia Yangqing, who previously led the computing platform department of Alibaba’s cloud unit, reportedly left the company early last year to join a start-up focused on AI infrastructure.
As such, China’s Big Tech companies – including internet search giant Baidu, telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies and Alibaba – are all striving hard to attract top-tier AI talent with competitive salaries and generous benefits.
Budget shopping platform operator Pinduoduo, for example, last November ramped up job advertisements for various positions, including offering up to 60,000 yuan (US$8,282) per month for roles like LLM developers and LLM referencing engineers based in its Shanghai headquarters.


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