Kai-Fu Lee’s Startup, Valued at $1B, Unveils Open-Source AI Model

In a significant move within the AI industry, Kai-Fu Lee’s latest venture, 01.AI, has released an open-source large language model (LLM), marking its entry into the competitive field of AI development. The startup, which aims to create an OpenAI equivalent for China, has been valued at $1 billion and is backed by prominent investors including Sinovation Ventures and Alibaba Cloud.

Key Developments

  • Launch of Yi-34B: The startup’s first model, Yi-34B, is a bilingual base model trained with 34 billion parameters. It’s designed to be smaller yet competitive with larger models like Falcon-180B and Meta LlaMa2-70B.
  • Talent Acquisition: Over half of the 100+ employees are LLM experts from major tech firms. The team includes veterans from Google’s Bard and TensorFlow.
  • Monetization Strategy: While some models will remain open-source, 01.AI plans to develop proprietary models for commercial products.
  • Anticipating Sanctions: The company has proactively stockpiled GPUs in anticipation of U.S. sanctions, securing a supply for the next 12-18 months.
  • Ecosystem Ambition: Lee’s goal for 01.AI is to become an ecosystem where developers can easily build applications.

Industry Impact

This development is a testament to the rapid growth of generative AI and China’s increasing focus on self-reliance in technology. Lee’s experience and network could give 01.AI a significant advantage in the AI space, potentially influencing the global AI landscape.

Future Prospects

With plans to release models ranging from 100 billion to 400 billion parameters, 01.AI is poised for further advancements in AI. The startup’s success will depend on its ability to integrate these models into viable products and services.


01.AI’s unveiling of Yi-34B represents a strategic move in China’s AI sector, reflecting the country’s ambition to match global AI developments. The startup’s trajectory will be closely watched as it seeks to navigate the complexities of AI innovation and commercialization.