THE SECRET OF GETTING AHEAD: INTERVIEW WITH YICHI ZHANG, CEO OF GREEDY INTELLIGENCE
Yichi Zhang is a young Chinese entrepreneur. He’s the CEO of Greedy Intelligence, a University of Cambridge spin-out, specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies. Yichi has been named by Forbes as one of China’s 30 Under 30 young entrepreneurial disruptors in China.
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Good to have you on Under35CE0 today. Kindly tell us about yourself and what you do.
Hi, I’m Yichi Zhang, co-founder and CEO of Greedy Intelligence. We’re a Cambridge spin-out focusing on edtech. By leveraging our team’s expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning, we build a variety of products to help people to better master English.
Our main products include Proofreading Tool (www.1checker.com), Automated Essay Scoring Engine, Automated Speech Evaluation Engine and Learning Management System.
What exactly do you do at Greedy Intelligence?
As CEO of a startup company, I am involved in all kinds of things. I am primarily focused on building a team that could deliver the best products to our users. Since the company has been growing really fast and we need funding to support our development efforts, I am also overseeing fund-raising and business development initiatives. It’s really hard to give you a list of the things that I do, because everyone is working so hard on so many things and I feel excited every day to be part of the team.
You abandon your doctorate plans to co-found Greedy Intelligence. Can you tell us more about that?
After spending three years in the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge, my partner Lin and I came up with a prototype, which later became our first product. We submitted our idea to the Cambridge University Entrepreneur Challenge and won a few prizes. More importantly, we were pleasant surprised to see the significant amount of interest from various VCs and angel investors who approached us afterwards. It was then that I saw the tremendous business potential of our ideas and decided to pursue it full time.
Have you always dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur?
Yes and no. I mean, I am fascinated by the entrepreneur world. Stories about people starting various companies never fail to inspire me. I have enjoyed creating disruptive innovations. And it was the major reason that motivated me to get a PhD in a very exciting field although my original plan was to join the academic community.
Tell us, how was growing up like for you?
I was always the “trouble” kid in the class, or the black sheep that stood out. I liked to challenge the authority and question the status quo as I was always curious what if things were done the other way. I don’t think I was a typical model student back then. However, I am glad that I kept my curiosity and my courage to do things differently.
How has your background helped you get to where you are today?
Being a non-native English speaker helped me to spot the unique business opportunity of helping people who struggle to master English. When I was writing my academic papers, I shared the same pain billions of non-English speaking people around the world encounter, and I wanted to improve the situation. On top of that, my technical background also helps me to realize my business aspiration and create a feasible product later on.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. —-Someone told me this Mark Twain quotes
How do you keep a positive mindset in difficult situations?
It doesn’t help to dwell on negativity. And I understand that ups and downs are inevitable. I try hard not to let negative thoughts affect what’s at hand. However, it is easier said than done. I think for the long term. If what we do right now is going to result in something amazing, I would focus my attention on the end goal instead of agonizing over the short term pain.
Tell us about some of your products at Greedy Intelligence.
We have developed 1Checker, which checks your writing simultaneously and offers suggestions to write English better It is an ideal writing enhancement tool that entails spelling check, grammar check, style review, vocabulary enrichment, dictionary and translation support.
We also have an Automated Essay Scoring (AES) Engine for English writing: the scoring engine goes beyond providing a score based on stipulated rubrics by providing comprehensive feedbacks on grammar, phrasing, sentence structure, and organization.
How did winning the Cambridge Entrepreneurism Award changed your life?
If we hadn’t won the award, I might be working on my postdoc studies right now. I am grateful for the opportunities and fresh life perspectives it provided me. And I encourage people to experience things that are new and unusual now and then.
How do you seek out relevant mentors and people for help?
I participated in various industry conferences to look for mentors and friends that share my interests. Also, I use Linkedin to network and seek help.
In your own opinion, what are the necessary skill-sets and attitude required to succeed in the technology and startup community?
Many skill-sets and attitude that are required to succeed in anything. Being in the fast-changing technology world and managing a young team adds to the challenge. It’s vital for me to value the work of others and be open-minded. It also helps to be resilient and empathetic.
What do you think about Under35CEO?
Brilliant site! It’s a great place to meet people who share the same passion and learn about them! Great idea to keep it under 35 so that we have more people to learn from!
Biggest achievements so far?
We acquired our Series A round funding of 3 million recently. This is the single largest amount of money that I have ever raised in my life. I immediately felt more responsibility that I had for the team and I was excited to start a journey that’s going to have a bigger impact.
Any words for our readers, in closing?
Thank you for making to the end of the interview. I hope I didn’t bore you much J Download our app and let us know how we could improve. Thank you for your interest.
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