Snow Lee: Obsessed with Underwater Robots

Jul 02, 2018



Many people are curious about the underwater world, but because of technical and physical reasons, they often cannot get to be there.


Recently, a intelligent tracking underwater drone called "BW Space" attracted attention at the Asian Consumer Electronics Show in Shanghai. It is reported that this underwater drone has recently won the Capek Technology Innovation Award, which is known as the Nobel Prize in the robotics industry. Snow Lee, the inventor of the underwater robot, is confident in its future application: "It is capable of high definition underwater broadcast and intelligent tracking of divers. Maybe the diver will take my robot to broadcast as an online celebrity in the future."


Snow Lee was born in the rural area of Shandong province in 1974. His grandfather was a carpenter and his father operated an agricultural machinery parts factory in the local area. His diligent father made their family the first batch of ten- thousand-yuan household in the county. He liked to do manual work with his grandfather in his childhood. When he got older, he followed his father to deliver goods and collect money. Thus there is the craftsmanship of his grandfather at his core, and he also inherits the business mind of his father.

In 2000, Snow Lee was admitted to the East China University of Science and Technology and studied electronic information engineering. During his time at the university, Snow Lee was very busy. He organized the Future Entrepreneur Association in the school, hosted the flea market, gave speeches in the conference hall, and spent time to assemble and sell electric mosquito swatters. "To be self-sufficient in life and not to waste my time are my basic requirements. At that time, our idols were the first generation of entrepreneurs like Ren Zhengfei. I'm going to be an entrepreneur in the future." Snow Lee said.


Accumulating before Settling down to Start a Business

After graduating from college, Snow Lee joined a TV factory in Shanghai. The company was on the wane, but he wasn't in a hurry to leave because it was the work experience that mattered most to him.

After changing jobs several times, Mr. Lee ended up working for a foreign-invested companies producing TV chip semiconductors, where he worked as a technical support manager for more than four years. After years of work and financial accumulation, Snow Lee felt he had enough capital to start his own business. "I just want to do something. I have technology, experience, and various supply chain resources and friend sourcing.

So he gave up his high salary and resigned. The first company founded by Snow Lee provided the overall software and hardware solution for core signal processing board of the education equipment for universities, TV stations and other educational institutions.


"My technology is not good enough, so I need to practice." The work in state-owned enterprises is not busy. So in his spare time, he went to a friend's car magazine agency to help. His friend admired his business acumen and hoped he could work full-time in the magazine agency. But Snow Lee, an engineering graduate, wanted to master a technology in a down-to-earth manner. "This is my future competitiveness."

"Although I put a lot of energy into research and development, and made some money in the early stage, but as the competition became fiercer, the weakness of the product without independent brands was exposed." Snow Lee said that the big companies that made such boards at that time were in Guangzhou and Shenzhen and compared with them, his company was small in scale, had no brand and had limited investment and resources, thus can never compete with them. Ultimately, the cost of research and development of his company was higher than the sale price of other companies. In 2015, Snow Lee closed the company and summed up the experience of entrepreneurial failure. Snow Lee said frankly: "The time to enter the industry is still late. When there are good projects, you can't wait. If you miss the opportunity, the chance of success will get lower."


Focus on Underwater Drones

Later, he put more energy into the analysis and evaluation of the market. After confirming that he wanted to develop robots, he quickly registered Youcan Robotics(Shanghai) Co., Ltd., which opened his second venture in life. 

In 2015, China's service robots and artificial intelligence fields are the focus of VC investment. Snow Lee first created two products: one was intelligent follow-up car, and the other was underwater robot. Snow Lee participated in the robot exhibition in Shanghai with these two products. He found that the two products received completely different attention. "Intelligent follow-up car is not of interest, but underwater robots have attracted great enthusiasm and attention from the audience." Snow Lee said that he finally followed the choice of market: to put all his energy into the field of underwater robots, and start with consumer underwater robots.

"Underwater robots are still a field where fewer people enter." Snow Lee said that he felt that underwater drones had unlimited business opportunities and decided to take the plunge and invest his entire fortune in the development and marketing of consumer underwater drones.
Snow Lee told reporters that his strength is video processing. Without financing, Snow Lee and several partners began to research and develop day and night with their own funds. "I didn't think about failure because I have confidence." The experience of working in video processing semiconductor companies has given him foundation of software and hardware and algorithm, as well as capabilities of system design and supply chain management. He feels he will succeed.

Recalling the hardships of research and development in the past two years, Snow Lee said that he was happy. "Especially when the problems are solved, that kind of accomplishment is great." In Snow Lee's office, there are small robots which are failed or successful or improved. "They all like my children and are results of my painstaking efforts. They encourage me to create better 'them'."

Snow Lee is a technology-focused engineer. At present, he has developed the product to the fifth generation, and they are very careful in the development and upgrade of each generation of products. For every detail problem, the technicians will spend several months to verify it and finally apply it to the product ideas. Snow Lee said that there are only three or four domestic companies that are actually selling underwater drones. He hopes to make his company one step ahead.

Dialogue: Promoting social progress is my pursuit

Guangzhou Daily: What do you think of the future of underwater robots? What is the future direction?

Snow Lee: In the field of underwater robots, the overseas market has matured, and the domestic market is still in the cultivation stage. I believe that with the continuous improvement of domestic consumption, fast growing of domestic market is around the corner. The scalability of underwater robots is very high, and now we're selling underwater drones for personal use. They can be used for underwater entertainment, underwater photography, underwater adventures, aquaculture, scientific research and education, marine culture protection and other fields, such as tracking and monitoring of endangered sea creatures, marine debris removal, marine water environment protection, exploration and excavation of the underwater cultural heritage, etc. In the future, we can expand various functions, such as underwater positioning, water quality analysis, underwater mapping, automatic early warning and so on.

Guangzhou Daily: You have a experience of second startup. What experience can you share with entrepreneurs?

Snow Lee: As far as starting a business is concerned, first of all, the role of the CEO is very important for a company. The academic background of the CEO can determine which industry he can do and if the wrong industry is chosen, most entrepreneurs will fail. Starting a business should consider factors such as capital, technology, team building, resources, etc., and consider the comprehensive ability of a person. As for me, being a CEO, in addition to considering the company's management and the core technology of the product, I also need to consider the product design as well as product marketing and publicity. So as a CEO, it's great to know more. Of course, for a smart hardware company, supply chain construction is especially important, therefore we have established a stable supply chain.


Guangzhou Daily: What motivates you to focus on industry?

Snow Lee: I don't regret doing my business. I have friends who have made a lot of money in the past few years and he doesn't have to do anything now. I feel that this kind of life will make us useless people after five or six years. I want to engage in "futuristic tech". It is my pursuit and my dream to bring progress to the society.