Baidu Ven­ture to bet on AI and VR firms

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By MENGJING mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Baidu Inc said on Tues­day that it has launched its first ven­ture cap­i­tal firm fo­cus­ing on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence — the Chi­nese on­line search be­he­moth’s lat­est ef­fort to stake out a spot in the bur­geon­ing tech­nol­ogy field.

Called Baidu Ven­ture, the new com­pany will fo­cus on early-stage projects in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and other next-gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies, such as aug­mented re­al­ity and vir­tual re­al­ity, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Nas­daq-listed Baidu.

Robin Li, Baidu’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, is the chair­man of the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm. For its first stage, the firm is equipped with an ini­tial in­vest­ment fund of $200 mil­lion.

Baidu said in its state­ment that the com­pany would be an in­de­pen­dent en­tity, sep­a­rate from the com­pany’s ex­ist­ing in­vest­ment and ac­qui­si­tion

Robin Li,

Robin Li, Baidu’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer

Ar­ti­fi­cial Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in­tel­li­gence is is the next next big big de­vel­op­ment de­vel­op­ment in in the the in­ter­net in­ter­net in­dus­try, in­dus­try, which is is the the core core of of baidu.” Baidu.”

team, so that it could “use an in­no­va­tive eval­u­a­tion mech­a­nism to speed up the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process and make in­vest­ments more ef­fi­cient.”

The move is seen by in­dus­try ob­servers as the Bei­jing­based Baidu’s lat­est ef­fort to grow its ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ex­per­tise, to jump­start a slow­ing search and ad­ver­tis­ing busi­ness, which is con­strained by tighter govern­ment con­trol on on­line ad­ver­tis­ing.

Lu Zhen­wang, an in­ter­net ex­pert and the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Shang­hai-based Wan­qing Con­sul­tancy, said Baidu ur­gently needs to find a new en­gine to cope with the slow­ing mo­men­tum of its tra­di­tional search busi­ness.

Baidu’s net in­come for the quar­ter end­ing June 30 was 2.4 bil­lion yuan ($359 mil­lion), down 34.1 per­cent year-onyear, as the com­pany faced height­ened reg­u­la­tion in the health­care sec­tor and on in­ter­net ad­ver­tis­ing.

Zhao Zim­ing, an an­a­lyst at Bei­jing-based in­ter­net con­stancy Analysys, said that by set­ting up the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Baidu could more quickly “ab­sorb” star­tups into its AI busi­ness and ex­pand its pres­ence in the en­tire in­dus­trial chain of AI.

“The move is ex­pected to en­able Baidu to gain some strong ad­van­tage in the AI com­pe­ti­tion,” he said.

Robin Li has in pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions pledged to shift the com­pany’s busi­ness from a search-ori­ented model to one based on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. In the re­cent Baidu World Con­fer­ence, which is the com­pany’s an­nual big­gest event to show­case its lat­est tech­nol­ogy, Li again stressed the im­por­tance of AI.

“Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is the next big de­vel­op­ment in the in­ter­net in­dus­try, which is the core of Baidu. We have made a great ef­fort in de­vel­op­ing this tech­nol­ogy over the past five to six years,” he said.

Many of the ar­eas Baidu is bet­ting on, such as driver­less car and Duer, a Siri-like voice as­sis­tant, all de­pend on the de­vel­op­ment of AI.

REUTERS

Baidu’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Baidu Inc Chair­man and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Robin Li speaks dur­ing a con­fer­ence in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang province.

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