Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Baidu's Six Years(Part 1) (9/11/05)

Baidu, the red hot celebrity, picked its name from part of a poem from the famous poet Qiji Xing in the Song dynasty: "Anxiously seeking from the crowd, suddenly turned my back, she is standing right under the spotlight."

Yanhong(Robin) Li is Baidu's CEO.

Li is unusual -

When Google, Infoseek, and Yahoo were dominant in the spotlight of the internet world, he went against the wind. He wanted to make a search engine that belongs to the Chinese.

Like IT legends Bill Gates and Michael Dell quit school, he gave up the opportunity to receive an "Oversee PhD" degree, and succeded in creating a successful business.

In June 2000, a chilling winter for the internet industry, he succeded not only in winning large contracts from,,, and, but also in obtaining the second round financing of $10 million.

He created Baidu brand search engine in three years. He chased around Google in China. He took Baidu public in six years in a splashing way that shocked oversea capital market and boosted the confidence of Chinese IT collegues.

Yanhong Li was born in 1968 in Yangquan, Shanxi province.

Like many kids of his age, he did not have a chance to go to kindergarten. Early education was basically taught by his two sisters. He went to an elementary school in Yangquan at the age of eight. Soon, teachers found that he was not a good listener; he often made trouble for any teacher who criticized him. Many elementary teachers thought he was not a good student. Neither did Li himself.

Once he got into the First Middle School of Yangquan, Yanhong Li started "behaving". He "behaved" well until he was admitted to the Department of Library Intelligence in Peking(Beijing) Univeristy with excellent scores on the National College Entrance Exams.

However, it is not what he had expected. The subject requires literature reading and cataloging. He thought it was very boring. The common view is that a graduate from the library intelligence will get a job as a librarian. That was not what Li wanted to do. Nevertheless, the study of this boring subject armed him with the special knowledge for starting Baidu later.

There are always many opportunities in a person's life that may come right onto his path. It depends on whether he can grab it quickly. While many more are created by efforts.

Li tried to change his fate from a mistake of selecting a subject that he did not enjoy.

He chose to study overseas. He bought a bundle of TOEFL books. He spent all his time connecting the three dots: dorm, classroom, and library. He could have been awarded a position in the government, but he gradually lost interests in politics. In Peking University, the students are provided with some elective courses. Li enjoyed computer science. With good expectations in the area, he took some classes in the Dept. of Computer Sciences.

In 1991, Yanhong Li graduated from Peking University. Dreaming of Silicon Valley, he "made his net wide open" by sending applications to more than a dozen American schools. He was finally admitted to the SUNY-at Buffalo.

Buffalo is a beautiful town. When Li first arrived, the city was blanketed by snow. The school had not admitted students from mainland China before. Under the request of the two newly hired Chinese professors, the school broke the tradition by admitting several students from mainland China, including Li.

At first, Li usually went to classes during the day and practiced his English during the eveining. He often stayed at school until 2:00am to finish programing. His hard working life is typical for many new students from China: catching up English, going to classes, and working part time.

After grauation, Yanhong Li found his first career job at Dow Jones, a company that provides financial information services. Three years later, he left New Jersey to start his second career job. He went to Silicon Valley on a sunny summer day in 1997. The sun was as bright as in his dream.

Silicon Valley is Yanhong Li's dream place. There are Hewlett-Packard and There are internet and venture capitals. Stanford University and UC-Berkeley are also there. Every inch of land, and every ray of sunshine made him very excited.

He found a job at Infoseek. William Chang(a pioneer in search),then CTO of infoseek was waiting for him. Just like any other programmer, Li wanted to make something that "everybody needs". He was very happy at Infoseek. Seeing millions of people accessing the programs that he designed, he felt overwhelming satisfaction in his heart.

He lived pretty close to the company. After dinner, he enjoyed walking around the area. New buildings were started almost everyday. The dusts settled quickly in only a few months. Then suddenly the beautiful industrial park appeared right in front of him. He was struck by the power of the "new economy". There were many Chinese engineers working in Silicon Valley. He went to many of their gatherings. The hot topics often were whose company's stock was jumping, who had made a fortune from stock options, or who had bought a mansion up on the hill.

Every conversation caused some restlessness.

In October 1999, the Chinese government invited some oversee Chinese to come home for "National Day Celebration Ceremony". Li was lucky to be invited.

After returning from the "Celebration Ceremony", Yanhong Li could not concerntrate on his work at Infoseek anymore. His good friend Yong Xu came up in his mind. On a day in November, Yong was invited to his home to talk about "something big".

Yong Xu was surprised at first when Yanhong Li handed him a "confidential agreement", but he quickly calmed down. He knew that Li has worked in the Silicon Valley for two and half years and that he must have learned everything the "American Way".

Yong Xu signed the "confidential agreement". Then Li said to him: "Let's start an internet company in China".

Baidu was ready to get started in China.

--> Part 2


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home