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Robin Li at Web 2: Bridging Valley and Chinese Business Cultures

By - October 22, 2010

Baidu stock.pngI’m particularly pleased to welcome Baidu CEO Robin Li to the Web 2 stage this year. Li is a familiar Valley startup success story – he left a promising career at search pioneer Infoseek to found a startup that has rocketed to multi-billion dollar valuations and global business fame. The big difference? Li did it in China.

A one year chart of Baidu’s stock, shown at left, certainly tells a story of success. I spoke to Li earlier in the Fall to prep for our conversation, and found him reserved, intelligent, and perhaps a bit apprehensive. After all, he’s speaking an hour or so after Eric Schmidt, and Baidu is often called “the Chinese Google.” Not to mention the company has profited from Google’s recent decision to, for all intents and purposes, to exit the Chinese market. And I wouldn’t blame him if he’s worried that the industry might call him out for bowing to Chinese policies regarding censorship. But as Li told me, “We’re based in China. We don’t have a choice on this issue.”

American educated, Valley smart, Chinese native, Li is a fascinating study in two cultures. That he’s willing to come and be part of our industry’s conversation says a lot about the man, and I think we’ll all learn from his visit.

Here are some of the things we’ll be discussing, please add your thoughts in comments, and please


do the same for Yahoo’s Carol Bartz and Google’s Eric Schmidt. (Next up will be Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.)

– The Google comparison, and Google’s recent moves in China. Do you likebeing compared to Google? Do you agree with the company’s clear challenge of the Chinese Government?

– Baidu’s stock has been on an absolute tear. How do you keep this up? Can you?

– Baidu is not well understood by the US market as a technology and product company. What distinguishes its offerings in China?

– Search in China – what’s different, what’s the same?

– The Baidu founding story – it’s a classic. It even has a Andy Bechtolsheim-like check writing moment.

– His take, as a “bridge” figure, on the various battles around Points of Control – Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Are there any parallels in Chinese business culture?

– Will he expand into the US? Europe? Other regions?

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4 thoughts on “Robin Li at Web 2: Bridging Valley and Chinese Business Cultures

  1. Question for John:

    Can you name 1 website that is censored in the United States?

    I don’t think you can 😉 — what does that tell us… anything?

  2. Excellent blog! I really love how it’s easy on my eyes and also the facts are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  3. ReaderFromChina says:

    Hi Jonh,

    Frankly speaking, I’m more and more doubt you’re bias ( as your long term reader since the search book).

    1. Baidu is a bad company, it violates the chinese search market, and do doubtful dirty business with the government. It never gains faithful audience from Chinese knowledgeable class, why you call it a success? By stock-market. If so, it’s a shame. And you’d better think if it harm your fame by your such words.

    2. You blame apple closed, but you never addressed that the “closed” apple gain its share in a open market, why it should be so constantly blamed. But you praise Baidu which neither open or bright in such a market, do dirty business with the government, a success?

    Pls show me your judgement?

  4. Baidu the search company vs. Baidu the portal. What’s working beyond the core competency of search?

    How are customers accessing Baidu? Partner sites, mobile, etc.