Jia Yeuting may be a relative unknown in the rarefied world of Silicon Valley but the billionaire Chinese businessman in charge of the conglomerate LeEco — which is also funding Faraday Future — is not afraid to ruffle some pretty big feathers, taking aim at both Apple and Tesla in his first interviews with Western media.
Jia called Apple “outdated,” claiming the reason for Apple’s slowing growth in the key Chinese market was down to a lack of innovation from the iPhone maker, pointing to the launch of the iPhone SE as an example. “From an industry insider’s perspective, this is a product with a very low level of technology,” Jia told CNBC. “We think this is something they just shouldn’t have done.”
Not content with take aim at Apple, Jia, who last week launched LeEco’s first self-driving car, also took aim at Tesla, saying his company would eclipse Elon Musk’s electric vehicle efforts. “We hope to surpass Tesla and lead the industry leapfrogging to a new age,” Jia told Reuters in a separate interview.
LeEco is known as the “Netflix of China” due to its very popular video streaming service, but the conglomerate also has interests in a much wider range of sectors including smartphones, TVs and electric vehicles. The company already streams NCAA and NBA basketball games to its LeTV Sport subscribers in China and has secured the rights to the soccer World Cup in 2018, having already reportedly paid $400 million for the rights to the English Premier League.
Jia is also putting his money in the hugely-hyped Faraday Future project, which recently broke ground on a $1 billion factory on the outskirts of Las Vegas, with the promise of producing electric, self-driving cars for the mass market.
The reason for Jia’s strong belief that LeEco can outshine established companies like Apple and Tesla is that LeEco has a different way of thinking about the products it is making. “Tesla’s a great company and has taken the global car industry to the EV era,” Jia told Reuters. “But we’re not just building a car. We consider the car a smart mobile device on four wheels, essentially no different to a cellphone or tablet .”
Talking about Apple, Jia told CNBC: “We believe the next generation of mobile internet will be more open, more ecosystem oriented instead of being a closed loop. Ironically, Apple’s over-dominance, lack of internet-thinking and the closed-off nature of its systems, all hindered innovation in the internet mobile industry.”
Like Xiaomi, another Chinese company making waves on the global market, LeEco sees itself as an internet company first and foremost. “We think the difference between us and Apple is very large. Apple is a mobile phone company focused on hardware and software,” Jia said. “[LeEco] is focused on the internet first, and only then on software, and finally on hardware.”
Since he founded the company in 2004, Jia has been building what he called “Le Ecosystem” which is an online platform with content, devices and applications. LeEco is involved in a wide range of industries, including cloud computing, e-commerce, agriculture and video production, in addition to its more high-profile products.
The company is seeking to expand beyond its home country in China with its eye on the smartphone markets in the United States and India.