The prominent American startup accelerator Y Combinator has abruptly folded its plans to open a Chinese subbranch YC China. The change comes less than a week after the first road show day of the subbranch took place on November 16, according to 36Kr.
The head of the Chinese venture, Lu Qi, former COO of Baidu, will proceed with a similar program of his own titled MiraclePlus. The Chinese program will have no affiliation with Y Combinator.
According to Lu, YC first officially proposed to withdraw from China in early May 2019. However, the representatives of the American accelerator have welcomed Chinese startups to join their US program regardless of the closure of the Chinese subsidiary.
The official reason behind the swift change of heart is a leadership adjustment at Y Combinator. Sam Altman, former lead of the China team, took a CEO position at OpenAI, while Geoff Ralston succeeded him as the head of YC Global.
In his interview with 36kr, Lu Qi said, “Geoff needed to make strategic decisions based on the global environment that YC faced, so he decided to strategically focus on YC’s seed accelerator business, with more focus on the United States.”
The sudden about-face on China among the Y Combinator leadership has birthed speculations that the move could be prompted by the current instability in the Sino-US relations. TechCrunch notes that the official explanation of such a high-profile retreat is too vague and is likely incomplete.