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In what is likely to be seen as a blow to Google’s ambitions in China, Kai-Fu Lee, the prominent head of the company’s operations there, is leaving to form a new venture.
Google said in a news release early Friday in Beijing that Mr. Lee, who was president of Google Greater China and vice president for engineering, would leave the company in mid-September.
Mr. Lee is planning to hold a press conference in Beijing on Monday to announce the creation of a new venture capital firm that will help Chinese entrepreneurs, according to a person familiar with his plans.
Two current executives will take over Mr. Lee’s engineering and sales roles.
Three days after announcing that he was resigning as the head of Google’s China operations, Lee Kai-Fu said he had raised $115 million to create a company that would fund high-tech start-ups in China.
That company, Innovation Works, will search for talented Chinese engineers and entrepreneurs and help them develop the next generation of Internet and mobile computing technologies, Mr. Lee said in a telephone interview Monday.
Innovation Works is being backed by the YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, Foxconn Technology, the Legend Group, New Oriental Educational and Technology Group and WI Harper Group, the American venture capital firm.
When I first read about this new consulting job Mr. Lee was taking I'll have to say I wasn't overly impressed. That old adage about 'those with ability do, those without consult/teach' was stuck in my mind. Mr. Lee is obviously very capable so I wasn't sure what to think. I can't help wonder why he's taking this step. From the outside I guess I'm just not convinced that it's a step up.
What Now? Q&A with Ex-Google China Chief Kai-Fu Lee [pehub.com]
Kai-Fu Lee, who last week resigned as president of Google China, has launched Innovation Works, an incubator for Chinese IT startups. It has been funded with $115 million, including from lead investor WI Harper Group and individual backers like Steve Chen (co-founder of YouTube), Terry Gou (chairman of Foxconn), Liu Chuanzhi (chairman of Legend Group) and Yu Minhong (chairman of New Oriental).
I spoke to Lee on Friday, and what follows is a transcript (we had agreed to embargo the news until this evening):