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Alibaba’s cloud computing chief and AI expert quits for new start-up

Jia Yangqing, vice-president of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, has resigned from the company, reportedly to start his own artificial intelligence (AI) venture.

Jia, who led the computing platform department of Alibaba’s cloud computing services business, said in a personal WeChat post on Tuesday, seen by the South China Morning Post, that he is “headed for the next challenge” of his career, without elaborating on what his next move will be.

Jia also said the best part of his time at Alibaba was realising the “special contributions that cloud computing brings to society”.

Jia will be joining a new start-up, with a focus on AI infrastructure, that has received the interest of several investors, according to a report by Chinese media outlet QbitAI on Tuesday.

Neither Jia nor Alibaba, owner of the Post, immediately responded to a request for comment.

Jia, a well-known expert in the AI field, is currently ranked the world’s top multimedia scholar by AIMiner, a Chinese organisation that tracks AI researchers and their studies.

Before joining Alibaba in 2019, Jia served on the AI teams of Facebook and Google in Silicon Valley, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Alibaba, one of the leading technology companies in China pursuing AI research, has said it is developing technologies similar to ChatGPT, a chatbot created by Microsoft-backed OpenAI that has garnered strong interest worldwide since its launch in November.

In 2021, Alibaba introduced a natural language processing model with 27 billion so-called parameters, which measure the size and sophistication of an AI model. That year, the company built an AI model known as M6, calling it the world’s first 10-trillion-parameter pre-training model.

In comparison, OpenAI’s GPT-3 model, which was used to train the original version of ChatGPT, launched in 2020 with 175 billion parameters. Baidu, which last week became the first major Chinese technology firm to launch a ChatGPT alternative, said the model it uses to train its service Ernie Bot has 260 billion parameters.

Alibaba Cloud has seen key personnel changes after its services suffered a major outage in December in Hong Kong and Macau. In the aftermath, Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong took direct control of the unit, Jeff Zhang Jianfeng stepped down as cloud business chief.

In a letter to members of the cloud business team at the time, Zhang said Alibaba Cloud could not afford to lose the confidence of its customers. South China Morning Post

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