An exclusive interview with Appier’s CEO and Co-founder Chih-Han Yu: Look out for the AI boom


Author: Maude Shen   Translated by: Kevin Nian-kai Wang   Editor: Lesley Zuo


As the CEO and co-founder of Appier, Chih-Han Yu is a one-of-the-kind genius in the rising field of artificial Intelligence.

Founded by a group of enthusiastic computer scientists and engineers with advanced expertise in AI, data analysis, distributed systems and marketing, Appier is one of Taiwan’s most promising technology startups, dedicated to artificial intelligence and cross screen technology. Using its AI technology as a problem solving tool, Appier helps business grow and succeed by optimizing business strategies.  

Chih-Han Yu, 37, is a Taiwan-born whiz with a doctoral degree in computer science from Harvard University, and a master’s degree in AI from Stanford University. He first started his business in America, later relocating it to Taiwan, and currently counts clients all across the globe.

Moreover, on March 16 this year, he was featured by the World Economic Forum on a list of 121 business leaders and scientists under to watch. As one of the Young Global Leaders, Chih-Han Yu hopes Appier can change the way people live and do business, by using AI technology to help make complex decisions much easier for clients.

Headquartered in Taiwan, Appier provides its expertise all across the Greater China, Southeast Asia and India regions, operating from 11 local offices in Asia and Australia. Last November

Appier announced that it had raised US$30 million in Series B funding from Sequoia India, on top of a previous US$6 million in Series A funding.

But even more than these mouth-watering smugs, Appier also enlists one of National Taiwan University’s top Information Engineering professors in recruiting new talent, a fact that, by itself, piqued our curiosity in the company’s core AI technology.

So on the eve of a typhoon day, the Techorange team had an exclusive interview with Chih-Han Yu. Ever the cordial gentleman, he is a straight talker with a booming laugh, aside from being a workaholic who spends every waking moment on the job.

Q: Why should everyone talk about AI? Why it is so important?

Chih-Han Yu: The strength of AI is that it can discover the relevance in a set of very complex data.

In short, AI enables decision making through software much as if it were a human, or even surpassing human abilities. For example, machines can detect relevance within tremendous amount of data, since they are not restricted by the operation and capacity constraints of the human brain. AI is software that enables intelligence in machine, giving them abilities that match or even surpass humans.

Q:All technological developments have a process behind them, so what were the roots that gave birth to AI as we know it?

Chih-Han Yu: AI is a wide field with a mere six-decade history. It arose at first as a method of logic: if A then B, if B then A; but we gradually saw that this could not handle high dimensional data, and in time we developed AI algorithms to handle more complex information and relevance across multiple factors.

Then we began to see that such parameters might hold secrets within them. For example, if we have a typhoon today,there will be a certain probability for rain, which brings us into the realm of statistics.

AI is rooted in logic, and as algebraic computing and statistics became involved in the field, it gradually expanded into a rich and diverse subject.

Q: Are we at the cusp of a significant technology boom?

Chih-Han Yu: Yes, the AI boom is rapidly approaching.

Q : What kind of role does AI play?

Chih-Han Yu: In the future, AI will be as important as oxygen.With AI technology, people can make better decisions, and this will bring AI everywhere.

Q: What do you think are the most common misconceptions or stereotypes about AI?

Chih-Han Yu: The most common misunderstanding and fear is that AI will replace human beings. However, AI actually functions as an assistant. Most of the time, we use AI in different fields to make the whole process more efficient, and in fact it is AI that helps in speeding up advances in our world.

Another misconception is that big data alone means better decisions. This is certainly not true, because big data is merely the first step; much more crucial is to use algorithms to help machines learn, and then to produce. This is the most difficult part in the entire process, and requires much study and research. If we have only the big data, but we can’t discern any meaning within it,then the data is meaningless.

Q: What do you think is the quality most lacking in Taiwanese talent?

Chih-Han Yu: Taiwan has good talent, but some people lack the ambition to face the entire  world. I believe this is a mindset of persistence.

For example, if some company in America or any other country produces some kind of really impressive technology, we can think in two different ways: one way is to copy them;, but the more proactive way is to think about how to improve or to break through it. If we have more people with the second mindset, I believe Taiwan can also become a global heavyweight in software.

Q:What do you think are your biggest challenges or obstacles, in terms of products, future plans, or anything else?

Chih-Han Yu: I don’t think about obstacles. I face numerous challenges every day, but I stay calm, keep on going and resolve them. This is who we are.

Q:What can the new government can do in the next 5 years to facilitate startups in integrating software and hardware?

Chih-Han Yu: With good infrastructure and flexible regulations in place talent and  funding will naturally flow in. Taiwan is located at an excellent crossroads between China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, and we’re at a prime location to become one of the centers of innovation in Southeast Asia. I think the most important thing is to enable entrepreneurs to boldly forge ahead without worrying.

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