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Y Combinator is planning to launch a startup accelerator in China. YC China will also have its own CEO: artificial intelligence champion Qi Lu. The former Baidu and Microsoft executive will also act as head of YC Research, which will open offices in Seattle.

“One of the things that Qi and I really bonded over was an interest in AI, ” Y Combinator president and OpenAI co-chair Sam Altman told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “I believe that will be the most important investment thesis of the next decade for software companies, and so I like that he’s focused on that as well.”

Though Y Combinator has a history of working with startups from both the U.S. and abroad, this is its first international expansion. With a history of backing companies like Airbnb, Stripe, Twitch, and Reddit, Y Combinator is one of the best known startup accelerators in Silicon Valley. It‘s also one of the biggest, with nearly 2,000 startups taking part in the accelerator since 2005. Each graduate receives $120,000 in backing and three months of training and prep to scale their businesses.

Lu was hired as Baidu’s COO in January 2017 and led the company’s AI strategy to grow its AI services alongside initiatives like the Apollo autonomous driving system and AI assistant Duer, which is now available on over 100 million devices. In May, Lu stepped down from his position at Baidu for personal and family reasons, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.


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Before his time at Baidu, Lu played a role in the creation of major Microsoft products, including Cortana, and put a deeper emphasis on artificial intelligence.

In a blog post today announcing the news, Atman called China “an important missing piece of our puzzle.”

“YC has been very successful in the world by emphasizing that hackers — not business people — can build the biggest companies. We are confident that with Qi at the helm, YC China will do the same,” Altman said in the blog post.

Y Combinator will host its bi-annual Demo Day on August 20 and 21 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

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