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The future is AI: Singapore tech firm Bigo looks to add 500 staff over three years


Fresh from an almost S$2 billion buyout from China, local technology powerhouse Bigo Technology is defying notions that artificial intelligence (AI) will wipe out jobs, with plans to hire 500 engineers over the next three years, up from just 40 it currently employs.

It has also backed its big hiring plans with a S$500,000 scholarship fund, of which it said the Education Ministry had contributed S$165,000, to award scholarships to two students a year at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Fans of live streaming or making short videos for social media might have heard of Bigo, or at least some of its apps such as Bigo Live, IMO or Like, that are top grossers in the mobile app charts.

Founded and headquartered in Singapore in 2014, Bigo – an acronym for “before I get old” – was recently the subject of an eye-popping US$1.45 billion (S$1.98 billion) buyout by Chinese social network giant YY Inc, according to the website TechInAsia in a report in March this year. It said that co-founder of Bigo, Mr David Li, was also the founder and chief executive of YY, which is listed on the US technology bourse Nasdaq. Before buying the whole of Bigo, YY had invested US$272 million (S$371 million) in the company.

The up-and-coming technology outfit is growing fast. With 20 regional operation offices and five research and development (R&D) centres around the world, the company offers live streaming, short videos, communication and social networking services, all supported by its artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

The firm now has about 40 staff at its Singapore office at Ngee Ann City, and it wants to hire 500 more technology and AI workers within the next three years to boost its research and development (R&D) efforts.

When asked about the reasons behind its dramatic manpower push, Bigo’s president Jason Hu told that it was “only natural” to solidify its Singapore base.

“We are very confident we can hire more than 500 engineers in the next three years.”

In its efforts to seek the best hires, the company recently announced a collaboration with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), with its Bigo Excellence Scholarship, which is intended to run in perpetuity. Bigo said interest from the principal sum would be used to fund the scholarship. The two recipients would be assured of an internship at Bigo.

Bigo told that the “two students will each get at least $10,000 per year”.

Bigo’s collaboration with NTU is only the first step in its plans to engage and work with more students and graduates in Singapore, said Mr Hu. The company has already worked with other schools such as Stanford in the United States, and Peking University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, in their video, media communications and coding programmes, and plans to do the same with students here, working with local universities however it can.

Mr Hu added that the company’s talent search here is not limited to AI candidates, but also in areas such as R&D, products and operations.