Tuesday, 1 April 2014

ViSenze’s Li Guangda

Li Guangda, who hails from the coastal city of Tianjin in northern China, completed his PhD at SoC in 2011. He is now the Chief Technology Officer at ViSenze, a start-up he co-founded with Professor Chua Tat-Seng. As you will glean, he is a very busy man and yet still managed to find the time to share his experiences with us.

What do you do now? 
I am the CTO and a co-founder of ViSenze. We build visual search and recognition platform, with the focus on building scalability, latency and performance robustness in a highly distributed, multi-component AWS architecture serving hundreds of millions of queries each day.

What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?
I believe visual search using image as input is another pillar of search engine besides the ordinary text and speech input. And that’s what we do. We are helping companies and developers to power their own products and applications by using of our visual search and recognition platform.

What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade?
More and more people will use mobile phone camera to interact with the physical world and look for information. ViSenze is developing this technology.

Briefly describe your experience as a SoC student.
When I was doing academic research, I enjoyed the feeling of pushing boundaries of technologies. But now, since I work more on practical problems, I am happier to see my products being used by real people every day. My favourite thing about studying at SoC was that I really made a lot of friends, whom I still meet up with very often after graduation.

Which faculty members made impressions on you?
My supervisor, Professor Chua Tat-Seng, who is also a co-founder of ViSenze. He guided me throughout my PhD and gave me enough freedom to try new directions and make mistakes. He is a natural leader who influences me much. I have also learned a lot from him about critical, innovative and independent thinking.

Is there anything you would have done differently during your time here?
I should have travelled to more places. I hardly went to any place for holiday since the company was founded due to the busy schedule.

If there is one thing you would change about SoC, what would it be?
There are quite a lot interesting small and medium size high-tech companies in Singapore. But based on my experience so far, many students have only heard about the big names like banks and listed companies, and very few would show interest in SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises). Maybe it’s because most SMEs don’t market themselves well enough but I think SoC should have more intro sessions about the local tech scene and encourage students to join the local high-tech industry. Fresh graduates will develop their professional skills very quickly by working on real large-scale application and practicing the stat-of-art software development methodology. In addition, there are local tech companies, like us, willing to offer attractive remuneration package and also a promising career path.

What do you count as your most significant achievements to date? 
During my last year of PhD study, I planned to commercialize my PhD research. Switching from thinking academically to that of a real business perspective was one of the challenges I was faced with. It was a tough process but I am quite lucky to get through it. Of course there is still a lot to learn every day but I enjoy what I’m doing now. I am very proud that ViSenze is attracting more talented fresh graduates and alumni from NUS who will be joining us this year.

Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

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