The AI startup founded by Wang Huiwen, who retired as senior vice-president of the Chinese food delivery company Meituan in 2020, has begun a new venture. On March 8, Wang Xing, CEO of Meituan, revealed that he would participate in the A round financing of Wang Huiwen’s startup and serve as a director.
Wang Huiwen announced on February 13 that he plans to invest $50 million out of his own pocket in a company he incorporated in Beijing in July 2018 to host the new business. 25% of the shares of the new entity, with a valuation of $200 million, are held by Wang Huiwen’s funds. He is aiming to build a Chinese version of OpenAI. Other top venture capitalists have subscribed for $230 million in the next round of financing of the entity.
Wang Xing commented on his investment, “The AI model makes me excited about the huge productivity to be created and worried about its future impact on the whole world. Wang Huiwen and I have been working together for nearly 20 years. Since he is determined to embrace this big wave (brought about by ChatGPT and OpenAI), I must support it.”
Wang Huiwen met Wang Xing on his first day of school in 1997, when both of them were attending Tsinghua University in China. Quickly, they became roommates and close friends. They co-founded a social networking service named Xiaonei, and Meituan together. In Wang Xing’s own words, “Wang Huiwen and I are classmates and roommates with common interests, partners who work together to start businesses, comrades who fight side by side, and lifelong friends.”
Wang Huiwen joined Meituan in the initial stages in December 2010. From Group buying, take-out, to travel, catering, Wang Huiwen led many of Meituan‘s new businesses from the very beginnings. In 2020, Wang Huiwen retired from Meituan at the age of 42. At that time, he said that he would continue to serve as a director and a lifelong honorary consultant of the company. After retirement, he went to Tsinghua University to teach a class named “Internet Product Management”, and by the end of 2022, he was also learning about Web3 and crypto.
According to 36Kr, Wang Huiwen’s announcement of building an OpenAI project in China was posted at a dinner. At that time, Dai Yusen and Liu Yuan, two partners of ZhenFund, and Li Zhifei, founder of tech firm Mobvoi, had dinner with Wang Huiwen. The investors of the next round of financing mentioned by Wang Huiwen are expected to include ZhenFund and Source Code Capital.
In addition to Wang Xing, on February 15, Liu Jiang, vice president of the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence, said that he had decided to join Wang Huiwen’s team and called on other AI specialists to join in.