Lu Qi, AI expert and former Chief Operating Officer of Baidu Inc., was named founder and Chief Executive Officer of Y Combinator China, signaling the Silicon Valley incubator’s ambition to expand its global operations.
Founded in 2005, Y Combinator (YC) has invested in and incubated over 1,900 startups from all over the world with a total value of over $100 billion while operating only in Silicon Valley.
YC China is its first effort to set up operations and business development overseas. It proposes “By China”, “For China” and “Of China”, meaning the team, which will be made of Chinese talents, is for China’s entrepreneurship and economic development as part of the Chinese society.
The mission of YC China will be in line with its headquarters across the Atlantic Ocean, which is to use technology innovation to drive social changes, as well as enabling a wider group of people to benefit from technology advancement. YC China’s business will include startup incubation, talent training, scientific research and charity.
In Lu’s vision, YC China will operate in an unprecedented way. He is looking for new technology, but more importantly, a new ecosystem to transform technology to power social reform.
In his new role, Lu will also become the head of YC research, the company’s non-profit research lab that funds work that requires a very long time horizon.
On May 18, 2018, Lu announced he would step down as Baidu’s COO for personal and family reasons, concluding his one-year-and-a-half journey at Baidu. There have been speculations about his next step ever since.
In an interview with 36kr, Lu said his decision to join YC China was a result of “the right time”, “the right place” and “the right people”.
He explained that at age 57, intensive big corporate environment was no longer for him. At the same time, he believed we are on the eve of large-scale technology-driven innovation where capital investment, talent development, scientific research and commercialized innovation need comprehensive reforms.
As for place and people, he needs a job that allows him to travel back and forth between China and the U.S., and he has known YC’s founder Paul Graham and its current CEO Sam Altman for a long time. They met when Lu worked at Yahoo from 1998 to 2008.