In November, a year after ChatGPT’s release, a relatively unknown Chinese startup leaped to the top of a leader board that judged the abilities of open-source artificial intelligence systems.

The Chinese firm, 01.AI, was only eight months old but had deep-pocketed backers and a $1 billion valuation, and was founded by a well-known investor and technologist, Kai-Fu Lee. In interviews, Lee presented his AI system as an alternative to options such as Meta’s generative AI model, called LLaMA.

There was just one twist: Some of the technology in 01.AI’s system came from LLaMA. Lee’s startup then built on Meta’s technology, training its system with new data to make it more powerful.