Startup accelerator Y Combinator names Baidu’s former AI talent Lu Qi as China Founding CEO

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Lu Qi announcing his new role in Y Combinator at Beijing, August 15, 2018. (Image credit: TechNode/Masha Borak)

Y Combinator has announced that former Chief Operating Officer of Baidu Lu Qi will be joining their ranks as the Founding CEO of YC China and the Head of YC Research.

The US-based seed accelerator said Lu will be in charge of the company’s business development in China and lead its scientific research. China is the first step toward the accelerator’s global expansion and the choice of Lu Qi shows the market’s importance. The announcement was made at a YC press event on August 15.

AI expert Lu Qi, previously employed by Microsoft, was a big loss for Chinese tech giant Baidu when he stepped down in May citing personal and family reasons. Lu was hired at Baidu as the company was to take over daily operations from CEO Robin Li in early 2017.

During the announcement event, President of Y Combinator Sam Altman sent a video message welcoming Lu Qi and calling him an “incredible force of nature” that he has been trying to recruit for years. Altman and Lu met in 2005, according to the company.

Lu said during the event that China did well in developing business models and innovating user experience during the past decade but is still need of large-scale tech innovation to enable a new round of social progress. New institutions and combinations need to be explored and created, especially cross-Pacific, he said.

“In the next generation of technology, such as artificial intelligence, the model of technology-driven innovation will meet the current and future development needs of China. China will also become the frontline of future scientific and technological innovation.”

Lu added that tech-driven innovation needs more investment in scientific research combined with capital. That’s why YC set up its Global Research Institute headquartered in Seattle, USA. Lu plans to spend his time between China and the US. The China-based unit of YC research will work under the YC Global Research Institute and plans to cooperate with local institutions. Its first task will be to recruit talent.

As for YC China, its work will be built on four values including tech-driven innovation, big ambition, long-term commitment, investment in R&D, as well as global sharing and impact, Lu explained. At the same time, YC China’s four main tasks will be venture capital and acceleration, talent training for Chinese entrepreneurs, scientific and technological research, and charity work.

TechNode reported the arrival of Y Combinator in China in April 2018. The company launched its Startup School at Beijing Tsinghua University in May. Eric Migicovsky, a partner at the company explained audiences at Tech Temple in July why YC chose Beijing.

Y Combinator talks incubation in China

“Beijing is the first tech ecosystem that does not rely on the Valley,” said Migicovsky. The Chinese system is breeding exclusive domestic markets and business models. Meanwhile, it’s integrating some of the most advanced technology and business trends. This has convinced YC to firmly believe in Beijing’s future global leading position.”

With more than 1900 accelerated startups already under its belt, YC aims to focus on early-stage support for startup teams in China. The company’s usual modus operandi is investing small amounts in a large number of startups. These amounts have already accumulated to $18 billion, according to the company. Some of the startups YC helped accelerate are Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe, as well as China-born Raven Tech and Strikingly. Raven Tech, a Chinese AI startup, was acquired by Baidu in 2017.