There’s an old Chinese saying: “If you want to do anything good, easy and fast, you need connections,” said Nancy Yang, a spokesperson for the fourth annual Seattle Biz-Tech Summit meeting today in Bellevue, Wash., outside Seattle. “Here in the U.S., we use email and messaging, but the Chinese way, and really for many Asians, is to meet face to face.”
That’s the concept behind the one-day summit, which is expected to attract 1,500 people, up from 1,100 last year and 400 its first year. Networking and deal-making are the conference’s focus, though it also offers breakout lecture sessions. More and more of the conference-goers are coming from China, Yang and organizing-committee member Dr. Tang Zhaohui explained.
“People need a platform to show what they do and to let local (Asians) know they can come here, not fly all the way to China, to get resources they need,” Tang said.
Conference-goer Casey Song, in charge of product planning for intelligent big-data services at Chinese networking and telecom company Huawei, just moved to Seattle from China in May. “I’m wondering what other big companies are doing in this (subject-matter) area,” she said. Sen Zheng, of local game-publishing company NGames, just moved to Seattle from New York and came to the conference in hopes of finding opportunities to bring Chinese computer games to the U.S. market.
China directly invested $30 billion in the U.S. last year, up from zero in the year 2000, and Gary Locke, former Washington governor, former U.S. Ambassador to China and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, in a keynote ticked off the reasons the Chinese should consider investing here, especially in the technology realm.
Among them were a strong labor force; annual per-capital income $48,000, which he said leaves a lot of room for consumer spending; access to multiple external markets through trade agreements, making for tariff-free exporting; a well-developed educational system; strong R&D; cheap power; legal protection for intellectual property; and a regulatory structure that he said “can be intimidating even to U.S. companies but ensures a level playing field through clear rules.”
The cloud and artificial intelligence, two of the hottest topics in computer technology today, were the focus of a second keynote address. Deng Li, Microsoft’s chief AI scientist, surveyed the varieties of neural network that have emerged over the years. Despite progress, AI has a long way to go, Deng said. It needs to be able explain how it reached its conclusions, needs to gain common sense (a goal that has proved elusive over many years of effort) and needs to learn how to reason.
Addressing an overflow crowd at a breakout session entitled “Intelligent Cloud” — a phrase for which moderator Kirk Li, a Microsoft Azure data scientist, acknowledged there is no definition — Luming Wang, head of machine learning for Uber Seattle, discussed how the cloud can best be used in machine learning. Because that process requires huge data sets, it’s best to do model training in-house, to avoid the need to flow massive amount of data over the internet, he said. But the cloud is good for serving models, he said. He specifically declined to discuss Uber’s own machine learning, which is being used in a wide variety of offerings.
Other breakout-sessions offered panels addressing the Internet of Things; marketing, search and the mobile internet; the digital transformation of industries; U.S.-China investment and business opportunities; an overview of foreign-investment laws; and venture capital opportunities.