He became the focus of a 2005 legal dispute between Google and Microsoft, his former employer, due to a one-year non-compete agreement that he signed with Microsoft in 2000 when he became its corporate vice president of interactive services.
He is one of the most prominent figures in the Chinese internet sector. He was the founding president of Google China, serving from July, 2005 through September 4, 2009. His personal blog is widely followed in China and he runs a popular website to help young Chinese people achieve careers in IT.
In 1973, Lee immigrated to the United States and attended high school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University, earning a B.S. degree in computer science in 1983. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1988.
At Carnegie Mellon, Lee worked on topics in machine learning and pattern recognition. In 1986, he and Sanjoy Mahajan developed Bill , a Bayesian learning-based system for playing the board game Othello that won the US national tournament of computer players in 1989 . In 1988, he completed his doctoral dissertation on Sphinx, the first large-vocabulary, speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system.
Lee has authored two books on speech recognition and more than 60 papers in computer science. His doctoral dissertation was published in 1988 as a Kluwer monograph, Automatic Speech Recognition: The Development of the Sphinx Recognition System (ISBN 0898382963). Together with Alex Waibel, another Carnegie Mellon researcher, Lee edited Readings in Speech Recognition (1990, ISBN 1558601244).
Apple, SGI, and Microsoft
After two years as a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon, Lee joined Apple Computer in 1990 as a research and development executive. While at Apple (1990-1996), he headed R&D groups that developed PlainTalk, the Apple Newton, and several versions of QuickTime and QuickTime VR.
In 1998, Lee moved to Microsoft and went to Beijing, China where he played a key role in establishing the Microsoft Research division there. MSR China later became known as MSR Asia. Lee returned to the United States in 2000 and was vice president of interactive services at Microsoft from 2000 to 2005.
Move from Microsoft to Google
On July 19, 2005, Microsoft sued Google and Lee in a Washington state court over Google's hiring of its former Vice President of Interactive Services, claiming that Lee was violating his non-compete agreement by working for Google within one year of leaving the Redmond-based software corporation. Microsoft argued that Lee would inevitably disclose proprietary information to Google if he was allowed to work there.
On July 28, 2005, Washington state Superior Court Judge Steven González granted Microsoft a temporary restraining order, which prohibited Lee from working on Google projects that compete with Microsoft pending a trial scheduled for January 9, 2006. On September 13, following a hearing, Judge González issued a ruling permitting Lee to work for Google, but barring him from starting work on some technical projects until the case goes to trial in January 2006. Lee was still allowed to recruit employees for Google in China and to talk to government officials about licensing, but was prohibited from working on technologies such as search or speech. Lee was also prohibited from setting budgets, salaries, and research directions for Google in China until the case was to go to trial in January 2006.
Before the case could go to trial, on December 22, 2005 Google and Microsoft announced that they had reached a settlement whose terms are confidential, ending a five-month dispute between the two companies.
At Google China, Lee helped establish the company in the market and overseen its growth in the country. He was responsible for launching the Google.cn regional website, and strengthened the company's team of engineers and scientists in the country.
On 4 September, 2009, Lee announced his resignation from Google. He said “With a very strong leadership team in place, it seemed a very good moment for me to move to the next chapter in my career.” Alan Eustace, senior Google vice-president for engineering, credited him with "helping dramatically to improve the quality and range of services that we offer in China, and ensuring that we continue to innovate on the Web for the benefit of users and advertisers". Two executives in the company have taken over Lee's roles, Boon-Lock Yeo, who is now working as director of Google’s Shanghai engineering office, will take over the engineering department, and John Liu, VP of sales and operations, will assume the business and operations side.
On September 7, 2009  he announced details of a $115m venture capital (early-stage incubation and seed money business model) fund called "Innovation Works" that aims to create five successful Chinese start-ups a year in internet and mobile internet businesses or in vast hosting services known as cloud computing. The Innovation Works fund has attracted several investors, including Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube; Foxconn, the electronics contract manufacturer; Legend Holdings, the parent of PC maker Lenovo; and WI Harper Group.
- Vice President, Google. July, 2005 - 4 September, 2009
- Corporate Vice President, Natural Interactive Services Division (NISD), Microsoft Corp. 2000 - July, 2005
- Founder, Microsoft Research Asia, China, 1998-2000
- President, Cosmo Software
- President, Multimedia Software Business Unit, Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI)
- Vice President & General Manager, Web Products, Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI)
- Vice President, Interactive Media Group, Apple Computer, 1990-1996
- Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, 1988-1990
- Ph.D. in Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, 1988
- B.S. in Computer Science, Columbia University, 1983
- ↑ CNReviews: Google China's Kaifu Lee Resigns (September 4, 2009)
- ↑ 
- ↑ 
- ↑ CNET News.com: Microsoft sues over Google hire (July 19, 2005)
- ↑ CNET News.com: Who in the world is Kai-Fu Lee? (August 2, 2005)
- ↑ New York Times: Google Official Says Frustration Drove Him From Microsoft (September 9, 2005)
- ↑ Seattle Times: Judge rules former Microsoft executive Lee can recruit for Google (September 13, 2005) - contains archives of documents from ruling
- ↑ CNET News.com: Microsoft settles with Google over executive hire (December 22, 2005)
- ↑ http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2009/09/google_china_he.html
- ↑ http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS29226+07-Sep-2009+BW20090907
- ↑ http://www.innovation-works.com
- ↑ http://www.ftchinese.com/story.php?storyid=001028641
- ↑ 
- Innovation Works
- Kai-Fu Lee's Student Network (www.kaifulee.com)
- Kai-Fu Lee's lecture at Carnegie Mellon University
- Kai-Fu Lee on NewsHour, mentions the Great Firewall