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Liu De
Most Creative People 2017

Liu De

Cofounder and Vice President, Xiaomi

For seeding a consumer-products boom

Liu De, a cofounder of the Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi, likens his strategy for building connected devices to growing bamboo. “Each shoot grows quickly, and there are constantly new ones,” he says. “The problem with bamboo is that its life cycle is short, so it’s best to form a bamboo forest, to be safe.” Liu’s job is to figure out which products can thrive at a particular mo­­ment, and then quickly incubate startup hardware companies to produce them. In three years, he’s fostered 77 companies that have launched hundreds of products, such as a smart guitar that teaches users to play via a connected app. The broad range of devices generated almost $1.5 billion last year and has helped Xiaomi—primarily a phone maker—diversify. Liu, a former dean of industrial design at Beijing University of Technology and the designer of Xiaomi’s first smartphones, expects revenue to double in 2017. “In the next 20 years, all your products will be getting better,” he says. “We have the opportunity to improve the quality of life of a generation.”

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