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In under a year, Chinese startup 01.AI, initiated by computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee, has achieved unicorn status due to its open-source artificial intelligence model.

  • History and Financiers: The fast-growing company has reached a valuation over $1B, following a funding round which included contributions from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s cloud unit. Sinovation Ventures‘ CEO Kai-Fu Lee will additionally head the new startup.
  • Inception of 01.AI: Unlike the rest of the world, Kai-Fu Lee noted that China lacks access to OpenAI and Google as these entities didn’t extend their product reach to China. This gap in the market birthed a collective effort among LLM enthusiasts to create a much-needed solution.
  • LLM Access: 01.AI’s open-sourced large language model, Yi-34B, is now accessible to developers globally, available in both Chinese and English.
  • Beating the Competition: The Chinese startup’s model Yi-34B has outperformed leading open-source models, including Meta Platforms Inc.’s Llama 2. Hugging Face, which maintains leaderboards for top-performing LLMs, ranked Yi-34B as the leading pre-trained base LLM. This new AI model has stirred interest in the AI industry.
  • Industry-Specific Alternatives: With a team of over 100 people, Lee plans to develop proprietary alternatives that are tailored for specific industries or competitive situations.
  • Kai-Fu Lee: Lee decided to lead 01.AI because of his belief in the potential of the latest generation of LLMs to change the world. The company is working on an open-source model as it believes that many AI developers cannot afford or do not need the larger, more expensive models.

Lee is confident that he can balance his dual CEO roles, with a carefully planned work schedule that ensures both Sinovation Ventures and 01.AI receive his full attention.

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