Every company needs a lab. Labs are where the company finds solutions and improves their product or service. And for tech companies, the lab means even more: that’s where new technology turns into real-world applications.
As part of their global expansion plan, Chinese tech companies with high revenue streams are pumping money into research and development and recruiting talents in the US with newly founded facilities.
In Q2 2017, Tencent and Didi Chuxing both set up their first US AI labs, in Seattle and Mountain View, California, respectively.
Tencent chose Seattle because it is after Microsoft’s headquarter talents. As the company’s CEO Huateng Ma testified, “If talents are reluctant to leave Seattle, we need to build a lab closer to them. This is how it works, unfortunately.” The Tencent AI lab will specialize on four domains: computer vision, voice recognition, natural language processing and machine learning.
Its focuses are almost identical to those of Baidu, who opened their first Silicon Valley research lab in 2014 and added a second last year. Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent are collected referred to as “BAT,” China’s big three. Currently, Alibaba is the only one of the tech trio lacking an AI lab, although the company has a big data centre in Silicon Valley, with extensive focus on cloud computing tailored to fit Taobao’s and Tmall’s retail analytics need.
Meanwhile, Didi, Uber’s biggest international competitor, is hunting down autonomous driving talents in Silicon Valley. Their latest recruit is engineer Charlie Miller, who remotely hacked a Jeep’s driving system during his time with Uber. Miller will be leading cyber security development. Didi plans to hire “dozens” to start, with further poaching to come.
Labs allow global tech companies to easily recruit US-based engineers, developers and researchers; and also help with their international branding, marketing, and gaining consumer recognition through heavy R&D investments.
For Chinese companies, the need to launch a Silicon Valley (or Seattle) lab is almost as essential as their US counterparts’ efforts to tap into the Chinese consumer market. It’s all just a matter of time.
Author: Meghan Han | Editor: Michael Sarazen