How Baidu lost its top 3 visionists in AI development

Baidu, China’s largest Internet search engine operator, has recently seen a dramatic change in leadership. The firm’s AI “trio” — Yu Kai, Andrew Ng and Wang Jing — have all left or are about to leave their posts at Baidu.

The trio’s leadership and expertise were what made Baidu thrive in the AI arena. In 2013, Yu started Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning (IDL) in the Silicon Valley, showing the firm’s strong ambition to go deep into AI development. Yu then brought in Andrew Ng the next year, making Baidu a company with world-class AI expertise in major areas such as speech recognition, computer vision and machine learning.

The Chinese tech giant also has high aims and has achieved much in the development of driverless cars, with Wang Jing to be thanked. In 2013, Wang co-founded the company’s research arm Baidu Research, and then set up the autonomous car business inside Baidu and headed the business.

While Baidu is currently experiencing major shakeups in leadership, these three AI experts are doing seemingly fine after Baidu. Here is the rundown of what Yu has been up to and what Ng’s and Wang’s upcoming plans may look like.

Yu Kai

(Photo provided by Yu Kai)
(Photo provided by Yu Kai)

Yu Kai, founder of Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning (IDL), left Baidu in 2015 and started his own AI company — Horizon Robotics, developing chips for robots.

Backed by several venture capital firms, the startup had a successful seed funding round in September 2015. Then in 2016, the company soon added world-renowned tech investor Yuri Milner to its groups of backers, and also got a new round of investment in June 2016. The company did not release details on the amount of funding it received.

The company focuses on connecting processors, hardware, software, cloud computing and big data to create full range services for artificial intelligence.

Read our previous interview of Yu Kai: Meet the robotics startup that wants to be the Android of AI

Andrew Ng

(Photo from Baidu images)
(Photo from Baidu images)

Andrew Ng, the leading expert in the artificial intelligence world, announced last week that he is resigning from the tech giant after serving three years as its chief scientist.

Ng hasn’t said anything official about his next step, but there was talk among industry insiders that Ng might go back to academia (yes, he is an adjunct professor in Computer Science at Stanford University) or start his own AI business.

Some speculated that he might move to his wife’s company, a startup that creates AI deep-learning software for autonomous vehicles, but she has since confirmed that Ng will not join her company.

Wang Jing

Wang Jin
(Photo from Baidu images)

Wang Jing, Baidu’s senior vice-president (SVP) and former general manager of the company’s autonomous driving unit, is to leave Baidu in April and start his own driverless car startup.

Just as Wang has been doing at Baidu, his new startup will focus on developing autonomous cars. Wang said on Monday that his startup has successfully received a round of funding from Angel Plus, a Chinese early-stage venture capital firm co-founded by New Oriental Education founder and CEO Michael Yu and investment banker Sheng Xitai.

With Wang’s management expertise and strong technology background, his new company is not to be messed with in its game in the autonomous driving sector.

(Top photo from Pixabay)

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