Ex-Google China president unveils €80m incubator

Google China’s former CEO and president Dr Kai- Fu Lee has launched a technology incubator for start-ups in China, backed by €80 million in Silicon Valley funding.
Innovation Works features the financial backing of YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, Foxconn Technology Group, Legend Group and New Oriental Education & Technology Group. The lead VC investor is the WI Harper Group.
The company which will be based in Beijing within Tsinghua University, will concentrate on internet, mobile and cloud computing technology targeted at the Greater China market.
The aim of Innovation Works is to accelerate local Chinese innovations and assist entrepreneur’s to prove ideas, obtain additional external funding, and then spin-off into an independent company.
Lee, who announced his departure from Google late last week said that hiring is already underway for 100-150 staff to help find, assess and develop innovation.
“The Chinese entrepreneurial environment is still in its formative stage, with significant barriers for the early-stage entrepreneur: the lack of management experience and coaching, the reluctance of venture capitalists to invest in companies in the formation stage, and the lack of networking and experience to pull a company together,” Lee said.
He explained that Innovation Works would match entrepreneurs, engineers, ideas, and capital with a unique business model that improves success rates and speeds time-to-market.

Lee told Venture Beat that the initial target was to try 20 ideas over the first year with an expectation that 10 would be seed-funded out and three to five would go on to Series A funding.
“The size and scope of what we’re doing is very unique. The approach we’re advocating is really designed for China. In the US, there’s a more developed ecosystem of ideas and entrepreneurs. The right combination will happen there organically. But here, people keep ideas to themselves. Until the culture of innovation in Beijing is like Silicon Valley, there is an opportunity and a need for a hands-on approach,” he said.
Steve Chen said “as a co-founder of YouTube and PayPal, I deeply believe that passion and dedication are critical success factors of start-ups. Every time I visited China, I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the entrepreneurs there. I am convinced that Innovation Works will provide the best platform for these entrepreneurs to realize their dreams.”
Lee become VP and president of Google Greater China in 2005, building a company with 700 staff and about 20% of the mainland China search market. He has also worked in senior executive positions at Apple, Silicon Graphics, and Microsoft where he created Microsoft  Research Asia.