New Alibaba chief says future of company will be “AI-driven”

In his first company-wide communication since taking over as Alibaba Group’s CEO, Eddie Wu announced that “user first” and “AI-driven” will be the company’s twin strategic focuses going forward.

“As traditional internet models become increasingly homogeneous and face the competitive pressures of saturation, new technologies such as AI are emerging as the new engine of global business growth,” Wu wrote in a letter to employees seen by Beijing-based media outlet Jiemian News.

To reshape business priorities around these two core values, Wu intends to up Alibaba’s strategic investments in three types of businesses: technology-driven internet platforms, AI-driven tech businesses and global commerce networks.

Wu stressed the do-or-die nature of the strategic shift, implying that the company could become obsolete if it fails to adapt its user scenarios to AI applications. “If we don’t keep up with the changing times of AI, a new species will surely replace us.”

Wu is stepping in to replace Daniel Zhang, making him the company’s fourth CEO in its 24-year history. Wu has also taken over as acting chairman and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group, after Daniel Zhang’s surprise exit from the role on Sunday. Zhang announced he would be stepping down as CEO and chairman of Alibaba Group back in June, but said at the time that the move would allow him to focus on his role as CEO of Alibaba Cloud.  

Under the group’s ongoing restructure, Alibaba Cloud is expected to appoint a separate CEO and is rumoured to be preparing for an initial public offering in the near future. The subsidiary, which is behind Alibaba’s flagship AI model Tongyi Qianwen, will be of major strategic importance in fulfilling Wu’s vision.

Alibaba Cloud’s new chief technology officer Zhou Jingren, appointed at the end of last year, has already announced his plans to build an open ecosystem to nurture smaller players in AI innovation.

“By hosting competitions and other community events, we want to engage with more developers and entrepreneurs, and encourage them to bring their ideas to life, unlock productivity, and create more versatile AI tools that transform and shape the future of our industries,” Zhou said at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in July.

Eddie Wu signed off his first company-wide memo on a hopeful note: “With an entrepreneurial mindset, and without indulging in the past or sticking to the old ways, Alibaba will continue to grow on a huge scale and create more value in the AI era.”


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