It was about two years since I last had lunch with Kaifu in Shanghai. Kaifu Lee is the head of Google China, and we worked together when we were both in Microsoft. I visited Google China office the last week, and spent about one hour in his office.
Kaifu Lee is a Great Friend to Have
I know Kaifu for quite some time, and I admire his academic achievements. Besides that, Kaifu is pretty lovely and kind. Last time, when I send my LinkedIn invitation to my friends, Kaifu returned email about to tell me to use another email address. :-) The only one who treat everything so serious.
The big chaos, and controversy when Kaifu joined Google from Microsoft – the key news.
The Battle with Baidu
I honestly told Kaifu, that I worried about Google China a lot when it just entered China. It seemed to me that Google has done almost everything wrong initially, exactly as eBay. Meanwhile, its competitor Baidu is a hard player in the field, and use completely local strategy to fight….
When Google enters China, there are many Google fans in China. The very high expectation for Google was just as people’s expectation for Microsoft in the early days when it just entered. However, as anything new, it is so hard to deliver the same standard of what is established in US, and they did make some mistakes like the Pinyin IME, and some others.
In 2006, there are many Google fans who get disappointed by Google China, and some started to draw a line between Google (Mount View), and Guge (Google China). Standing in between of the censorship, and all kinds of stupid regulation, and the Google’s international consistency, and standard is not a good thing people expect.
After talking with Kaifu, I think the realistic expectation for Google China is needed, although people don’t really care about what is realistic.
To expect Google China to take the role to fight against the Firewall is realistic. It is just a commercial company with its responsibility for shareholders. To expect Google to fight the same way local companies did is also not realistic. Any company has its own ways of doing things, and for international companies to understand China, it takes time. Think about Microsoft – it took about 10 years to really become mature in China (remember how many general manager was fired in 7 years? 6!)
Good Luck to Google China
Google China is doing great. It has obviously far more exceeded my expectation. Google China not only survived (unlike eBay China), but also getting some market share back these days. During my recent work with Google China employees, I just feel the young Microsoft is getting back – young, energetic, passionate, and professional engineers with a clear goal and vision, and culture…
Best wishes to Kaifu, and Google China.