Y Combinator is coming to China

Here we come.
Here we come.
Image: AP Photo/Andy Wong
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Y Combinator, the famed startup accelerator that’s incubated tech darlings like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe, is expanding to China.

The accelerator has tapped Qi Lu, a tech veteran who was most recently Baidu’s chief operating officer, to lead Y Combinator China, which will be up and running as early as next year, reports Bloomberg (paywall). Lu will also take over as head of Y Combinator’s research arm.

Qi joined Baidu in 2017 to lead its artificial intelligence efforts after leaving Microsoft, where he was an executive vice president and oversaw products like Office and Skype. But the unexpected announcement of his departure from Baidu 18 months later was seen as a sign of turmoil at the Chinese search giant, triggering a 9.5% fall in shares (paywall). At the time, Lu had cited “personal and family reasons” (paywall) for no longer being able to work in China full-time. As the CEO of Y Combinator China, he will work from both China and the US.

Rumors have swirled for months that Y Combinator was looking to open in China. Though the incubator has seeded startups from around the world, this marks its first full-fledged international foray. In May, Y Combinator hosted what a conference called Startup School in Beijing, with the aim of recruiting more Chinese startups.

In a blog post yesterday (Aug. 14), Y Combinator president Sam Altman said that “China has been an important missing piece of our puzzle,” and that he expects more large tech companies on the scale of Google and Apple to be based in the US and China over the next decade.

“YC has been very successful in the world by believing that hackers—not businesspeople—can build the biggest companies,” he wrote. “We are confident that with Qi at the helm, YC China will do the same.”