996 Podcast: Yi Wang of Liulishuo on Teaching English with AI
Yi Wang is founder and CEO of Liulishuo (a.k.a. LingoChamp), China’s leading AI-powered mobile learning platform for spoken English with over 70 million users. Within a few months of launch, Liulishuo rose to the top of the Apple App Store in China, and was recently ranked by CB Insights as one of the 100 most promising AI startups in the world in 2018.
Yi is a so-called “sea turtle” (海归) who returned to China after studying and working in the US. A Princeton and Tsinghua graduate, Yi was a product manager at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View before founding Liulishuo in 2012.
In this episode, we discuss questions such as: Why did Yi choose to leave his comfortable job in Silicon Valley to start a new venture in China? What challenges must “sea turtles” overcome to successfully start companies in China? What makes Liulishuo so engaging to its millions of users? Will AI ever replace human teachers?
This episode includes a bonus interview with GGV Managing Partner Jenny Lee on why we invested in Liulishuo.
Many commentators in China interpreted Tencent’s move as one intended to maintain its edge over NetEase, another gaming powerhouse in China. Tencent often invests in multiple players in the same category. Besides Douyu and Huya, Tencent also owns or controls 10 other live streaming platforms.
Note: YY is a GGV portfolio company.
Currently, almost none of China’s largest public tech companies are traded domestically. Most are listed in the US or Hong Kong. IPOs on mainland Chinese exchanges—Shanghai and Shenzhen—are mostly closed to foreign investors. The Chinese government requires that companies be profitable before they can be listed domestically, and keeps tight control over who gets to list and when. Thus, many high-growth Chinese technology companies choose to list abroad.
Chinese officials are amending the rules to lower these barriers to allow overseas-listed Chinese tech firms to simultaneously list back home. Xiaomi, which is planning a Hong Kong IPO later this year at an $80-100 billion valuation, is reportedly considering such a dual listing.
Executives of various Chinese tech giants including Baidu, Sogou, 58.com, NetEase, and Ctrip have all declared ambitions to list their companies on Chinese exchanges when regulations permit. Both the Internet security company Qihoo 360 and the advertising company Focus Media, which went public in the US, have returned to China’s mainland stock exchange through backdoor listings.
Note: GGV Managing Partner Hans Tung is an early investor and former board member of Xiaomi.
A Quote: How Bytedance (Toutiao)’s Zhang Yiming Retains Talents
“How do we keep attracting talent as a relatively mature company that can no longer offer significant stock options to employees? We increase year-end bonuses. The best-performing employees will receive up to 100 months worth of salary. We want people to know that no matter when they join Bytedance, they will be rewarded.
When you reward early employees with stock options, you are essentially giving out rewards based on people’s ability to tell whether a company will succeed. We’d rather reward people based on their contributions, and thus put more emphasis on year-end bonuses.”