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Kai-Fu Lee : biography

December 3, 1961 -

Kai-Fu Lee ( born December 3, 1961) is a Chinese IT venture capitalist, executive, writer, micro-blogger, and computer scientist. He is currently based in Beijing, China.

Dr. Lee developed the world's first speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system as his Ph.D. thesis at Carnegie Mellon. He later became a high-technology executive at Apple, SGI, Microsoft, and Google.

He became the focus of a 2005 legal dispute between Google and Microsoft, his former employer, due to a one-year non-compete agreement that he signed with Microsoft in 2000 when he became its corporate vice president of interactive services. (September 4, 2009)

He is one of the most prominent figures in the Chinese internet sector. He was the founding president of Google China, serving from July 2005 through September 4, 2009. He has created personal website, "我学网" dedicated to helping young Chinese people achieve in their studies and careers. . He is one of the most followed micro-bloggers in China, in particular on Sina Weibo , where he has over forty million followers.


Lee was born in Taipei, Taiwan. He is the son of Tien-Min Li, a legislator and historian from Sichuan, China.

Lee has detailed his personal life and career history in his autobiography in both Chinese and English, Making a World of Difference, published in October 2011 and currently available on Amazon.com.



In 1973, Lee immigrated to the United States and attended high school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University, earning a B.S. degree in computer science in 1983.http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/chazen/journal/article/137235/Google+Conquers+China%3A+An+Interview+with+Kai-Fu+Lee He went on to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1988.

Academic research

At Carnegie Mellon, Lee worked on topics in machine learning and pattern recognition. In 1986, he and Sanjoy Mahajan developed Bill, a Bayesian learning-based system for playing the board game Othello that won the US national tournament of computer players in 1989. In 1988, he completed his doctoral dissertation on Sphinx, the first large-vocabulary, speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system.

Lee has written two books on speech recognition and more than 60 papers in computer science. His doctoral dissertation was published in 1988 as a Kluwer monograph, Automatic Speech Recognition: The Development of the Sphinx Recognition System (ISBN 0898382963). Together with Alex Waibel, another Carnegie Mellon researcher, Lee edited Readings in Speech Recognition (1990, ISBN 1-55860-124-4).

Apple, Silicon Graphics, and Microsoft

After two years as a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon, Lee joined Apple Computer in 1990 as a principal research scientist. While at Apple (1990–1996), he headed R&D groups responsible for QuickTime, QuickTime VR, QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime Conference, Apple Bandai Pippin, PlainTalk, Casper (speech interface), GalaTea (text to speech system) for Mac Computers.

Lee moved to Silicon Graphics in 1996 and spent a year as the Vice President of its Web Products division, and another year as president of its multimedia software division, Cosmo Software.

In 1998, Lee moved to Microsoft and went to Beijing, China where he played a key role in establishing the Microsoft Research (MSR) division there. MSR China later became known as MSR Asia, regarded as one of the best computer science research labs in the world. Lee returned to the United States in 2000 and was vice president of interactive services division at Microsoft from 2000 to 2005.

Move from Microsoft to Google

In July 2005, Lee left Microsoft to take a position at Google. (July 19, 2005) The search company agreed to compensation worth in excess of $10 million, including a $2.5 million cash 'signing bonus' and another $1.5 million cash payment after one year, a package referred to internally at Google as 'unprecedented'.(September 2, 2005)

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine