Y Combinator ends plans for China accelerator

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Qi Lu will no longer be building Y Combinator’s accelerator in China. (Image credit: Dcoetzee/Wikimedia Commons)

Y Combinator (YC), the Silicon Valley seed accelerator behind Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox, has abandoned plans to build a China accelerator, it announced yesterday, ending its formal collaboration with former Baidu executive Lu Qi.

Why it matters: The China branch would have been Y Combinator’s first overseas expansion, offering an opportunity for Chinese entrepreneurs to build companies from the ground up with one of the world’s most successful team of consultants.

Details: A recent change in leadership made YC rethink its strategy and return to its “tried and true approach of supporting local and international startups” from its headquarters in Silicon Valley, it said in a statement.

  • Sam Altman stepped down as president in May 2019 and was replaced by Geoff Ralston, a former c-level executive at Yahoo.
  • Lu will shift his efforts to another program called MiraclePlus, and remains someone that “YC will support and collaborate with for years to come.”
  • A representative confirmed to TechCrunch that YC will have “no involvement with MiraclePlus or Qi Lu whatsoever, and that the company will no longer have any local presence in China at all.”
  • The announcement doesn’t say whether Lu will continue to head YC Research, the accelerator’s non-profit lab, a position he assumed along with his role as YC China’s founding CEO. However, language in the statement indicates that Lu will end all collaboration with YC.

Context: Y Combinator announced in August 2018 its plans to open a program in China. Former Microsoft and Baidu executive Lu was to head the effort.

  • There was little indication about the location, timeline, and investment into the venture. “China has been an important missing piece of our puzzle,” Sam Altman said in 2018, and Y Combinator would be building “a long-term local organization that will combine the best of Silicon Valley and China.”
  • Combined valuations for YC’s top companies exceeds $155 billion and it has worked with 102 companies that are now worth more than $150 million each, according to its website.

Y Combinator is officially coming to China