February 14, 2024

CEO of GenAI startup Nyonic says his cofounders 'trust the company', as four of them quit over China-facing strategy

CEO Dong Han — a former founder of two Shanghai-based startups according to his LinkedIn — is the only remaining cofounder

Tim Smith

2 min read

Dong Han, CEO of the German GenAI startup Nyonic, says that his cofounders "trust the company," despite four of them deciding to leave over concerns that Han wanted to focus efforts on the Chinese market.

News that four out of five of the startup's cofounders are leaving the company was first reported by German newspaper Handelsblatt, and was confirmed to Sifted by a company insider. 

Responding to a request for comment from Sifted, Han said that "nothing has changed about our resolve and focus to deliver the best industrial foundation models to our customers and partners," adding that Nyonic's "employees, cofounders, customers, and investors trust the company and are very confident about the company's success."


The departing members of the founding team include OpenAI alum Johannes Otterbach, former managing director of the German AI Association Vanessa Cann, SAP’s former head of AI Feiyu Xu and scientific director of the German Research Centre for AI Hans Uszkoreit.

Han — a former founder of two Shanghai-based startups according to his LinkedIn — is the only remaining cofounder.

The Nyonic source confirmed to Sifted that Alex Li will take over from Otterbach as CTO, Mars Wang will replace Uszkoreit and be responsible for research and Carrie Yu will assume Cann’s communications remit.

Handelsblatt cites company insiders who say Han has moved away from the Berlin-based company’s vision of building AI models for European industry in multiple European languages and has worked to “turn the tide towards China.”

In July 2023 Chinese media reported that Nyonic had raised a funding round from Chinese-American manufacturing company Lenovo, although the round was not publicly confirmed.

*Sifted updated this article at 15:34 GMT, 14.02.2024, to include Dong Han's response which was received post-publication.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is news editor at Sifted. He covers deeptech and AI, and produces Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast . Follow him on X and LinkedIn