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01.AI: Chinese AI startup shakes up the world of LLMs

Kai-Fu Lee. © Techcrunch (CC BY 2.0)
Kai-Fu Lee. © Techcrunch (CC BY 2.0)
Startup Interviewer: Gib uns dein erstes AI Interview Startup Interviewer: Gib uns dein erstes AI Interview

Until now, US companies clearly dominated the charts: The increasingly well-respected rankings of the LMSYS Chatbot Arena provide interested parties with quick information on how well new LLMs from large and small providers perform in direct comparison. Currently, the charts are dominated by the three US players OpenAI (GPT-4o), Google (Gemini 1.5 Pro), and Anthropic (Claude 3), making the other providers look a little old.

But recently it has been noticed that Chinese tech giants and startups are advancing – not just in terms of the Chinese language, but also in other areas such as English, German, and coding. One particularly notable example at the moment is the Beijing-based startup 01.AI, founded by Kai-Fu Lee. With its brand new language model Yi Large, it is now in 9th place in the overall ranking, on a par with OpenAI’s GPT-4o or Google’s Gemini 1.5 Pro for Chinese, but also in fifth to ninth place for English, Spanish, French and German.

Like most other LLMs, Yi Large from 01.AI is based on the Transformer technology published by Google and otherwise behaves like AI startups nowadays: There is a chatbot called Wanzhi, there are APIs to integrate the AI ​​functions into your own software, there are open source models, and of course there is the master plan to develop Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). 01.AI is not yet very popular; partners to date are Alibaba Cloud and the lesser-known AI model provider Fireworks.

Who’s the King of LLM? GPT-4 vs. Claude 3 vs. Gemini 1.5 vs. Mistral Large

Old Google veteran is behind 01.AI

“The Yi-Large model is a smart choice for small businesses and startups, combining exceptional performance with cost-effectiveness. The model’s superior natural language understanding and generation capabilities, combined with multilingual support for major languages, make it an ideal solution for a wide range of use cases,” the startup says.

Behind 01.AI is a very experienced founder, namely Kai-Fu Lee. He is an old hand in the Chinese web business at the interface with the West. The 62-year-old joined Apple in the early 1990s, headed Microsoft Research in China in the late 1990s, later moved to the top of Google China, and then started Sinovation Ventures in 2009. Sinovation Ventures is one of the most important VCs in China and has invested in Bitmain, Meitu, Mobike, and Niu Technologies, among others.

In 2023, Kai-Fu Lee finally launched 01.AI as the Chinese answer to OpenAI. In November 2023, shortly after its founding, the startup released Yi-34B. By mid-2024, the company will already be able to keep up with Western AI players in some areas – and outshine some like Mistral AI from France, Cohere from Canada or even Alibaba from China in terms of LLM.

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