Changing China

Giant on the move

Google to $115 million in 4 months

September 8, 2009

Kai-Fu Lee, Google’s former China head, has officially launched his new firm, Innovation Works, an idea conceived while Lee was sick in a hospital and dogged by an investigation.

Lee said the idea for his new company, a venture capital-like fund aimed at high-tech start-ups, and the $115 million to fund it have all come since June.

“I was sick in the hospital and we were under that pornography investigation,” Lee told reporters, recalling the moment when the idea for his new company first came to him.

“So I was just lying in bed thinking, ‘what should I do next?’”

The former Microsoft executive leaves behind Google as it battles Baidu in the world’s largest Internet
market by users and Beijing regulators who want to censor searches that lead to pornographic sites.  Lee said his battles with regulators were not behind his unexpected exit from Google, but he conceded that business models focusing on information and media were not in his sights.

“Media, in my mind, is not a big growth area,” he said.

Executives from Google and other foreign Internet and media companies such as Yahoo have testified before angry U.S. lawmakers concerned about their role in helping Beijing authorities censure the Internet.

“We are thinking about growth areas that are practical and those that coincidentally happen to be commercial and simpler to patent,” Lee said.

Innovation Works is targetting start-ups focusing on the Internet, mobile Internet and cloud computing.

The company has attracted venture capital from Foxconn Technology Group, Legend Group and WI Harper Group, New Oriental Education & Technology Group and Steve Chen, a cofounder of
YouTube, said Lee.

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