Days after Huawei hires iPhone designer, INGDAN.com lures Microsoft partner as more Chinese firms see world as their oyster

Acquiring veterans from major foreign players is becoming the new normal at Chinese tech enterprises as they seek ways of bridging experience, development, cultural gaps for greater global penetration

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 8:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 9:04pm

A former principal researcher at Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) has left the company to join a one-year-old start-up in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, in the latest move by an ambitious Chinese tech enterprise to recruit top talent from a big global player.

INGDAN.com said on Tuesday it has hired 48-year-old Li Shipeng as its chief technology officer. Li joined MSRA in 1999 and became one of Microsoft’s partners in 2012.

His new employer specialises in interactive online community for intelligent hardware. The Chinese name translates in English as “hard egg”.

As more Chinese tech companies venture overseas or expand their presence on foreign shores, they are increasingly snapping up veterans from established foreign players to truncate their development time or smooth the transition to overseas markets.

This also aligns with Beijing’s desire to foster industry innovation. Premier Li Keqiang has made his “internet plus” campaign one of his calling cards this year.

Last week, one of China’s leading smartphone vendors Huawei Technologies, also a large telecoms player, announced it had hired a former creative director at Apple who worked on the first iPhone.

Li is also not the first person to jump ship from MSRA and join a Chinese tech company. He follows in the footsteps of several members of MSRA’s senior leadership team.

Microsoft’s Asia research chief Zhang Yaqin joined China’s leading search engine Baidu in 2014; Zhang Hongjiang, managing director of Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Center, joined Chinese antivirus software developer Kingsoft in 2011; and Alibaba’s chief technology officer Wang Jian was formerly an assistant managing director at MRSA.

Moreover, Chinese telecoms giant ZTE is keen to recruit highly experienced and talented foreign staff to work on its cloud computing, big data and new energy interests as it has already set up 19 research and development centres globally, according to Alex Wang, vice president of CTO Group, run by ZTE.

Wang made the comments on Monday at the South China Morning Post’s China Conference in Hong Kong.

In a statement, INGDAN said Li will help establish its technology research lab and hire more talented professionals in software and hardware technology and cloud services from various countries.

Founded in 2013, it focuses on supply chain resources for hardware innovators and other start-ups, and claims to have four million followers on its platform.

The company is owned by Hong Kong-listed Cogobuy Group, a leading e-commerce platform for procurement in China’s electronics manufacturing industry.

Huawei’s announcement last Wednesday that it had persuaded Apple staffer Abigail Sarah Brody to join the team as its new chief designer of user experience comes just after Google named the company as its next partner for its popular Nexus line of smartphones.

The company is also known to be trying to upgrade both the specs and prices of its handsets to close the gap with foreign rivals like Samsung and Apple, even though it is the low prices of Chinese smartphones that have helped a handful of companies shoot quickly up the global ranks.

Brody will lead a team of 80 designers in developing creative user-interface design experiences and the look and feel for the firm’s smart device products, the company said. She will report to Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business.

“Abigail’s rich experience will help substantially improve Huawei’s UX design development, thereby consolidating our leadership and competitiveness in UX globally,” Yu, said in a statement,

Brody’s LinkedIn profile says she worked as a vice president of global design for eBay between 2010 and 2012. Before that, she served as a creative director and hiring manager at Apple for almost 10 years, working on the design of the first iPhone as well as iCloud.