Meet Aplus Fund: the investor backing former Baidu driverless car chief

Wang Jing, Baidu’s former General Manager of autonomous driving, announced on Monday that he is to resign from the company in April to found his own driverless car startup.

Before Joining Baidu in 2010, Wang had already worked at a string of international technology companies including Oracle, Alibaba, and Google China. During his time at Baidu, Wang Jing led several projects for the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) department, setting up research centers in the United States and Shenzhen, as well as co-founding research arm, Baidu Research. Under Wang’s leadership, the company set up an autonomous driving unit in December 2015. More recently, the Chinese web giant Baidu joined Ford in a USD 150 million investment in the development of laser-based radar sensors at Velodyne LiDAR.

Wang Jing
Wang Jing, Photo from Baidu Images

According to Wang, the top three players in autonomous driving are currently Google, Uber, and Baidu. His new startup aims to solve existing problems in the autonomous driving sector using computer visualisations and deep learning. Already, his project has received financing from Beijing-based investor Aplus Fund.

Chinese entrepreneur and educator Yu Minhong (Michael Yu) and senior banker Sheng Xitai cofounded Aplus Fund in November 2014. Aplus Fund aims to invest in a variety of tech including AI, fintech, and entertainment.

Yu Minhong (left) and Sheng Xitai. Photo from
Yu Minhong (left) and Sheng Xitai. Photo from

Aplus Fund has already backed AI startups include Novumind, Trio.AI, and SoundAI from fields of voice interaction, data, and mobile and home internet.

In addition to investment, Aplus Fund’s co-founders are successful entrepreneurs themselves. AllChinaTech has looked into how they built their enterprises to give a glance of Aplus Fund’s investments.

In addition to Aplus Fund, Michael Yu is the co-founder of education company New Oriental, which each year trains about 3 million students in English tests as they apply for overseas universities.

55-year-old Yu is arguably a representative of the Chinese dream. Speaking to Chinese media in 2016, Yu described how he was born and raised in the Chinese countryside, working hard to achieve high scores in the National Entrance Examination (gaokao) and gaining a place at China’s top college, Peking University.

Later, he successfully applied to several American universities, and started a business in order to fund his studies. He tuition business grew, and finally became New Oriental in 1993.

As Yu’s student numbers grew, he quit his original idea of pursuing an education in the United States. Instead, he invited some of his former classmates, some of whom had finished their masters or PhDs in America, to return to China and join his venture. By 2006, New Oriental was listed at the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, 47-year-old Aplus Fund co-founder Sheng Xitai started his career as a university teacher. After quitting his job, he entered the world of banking and securities in 1992.

Over the course of his career, the low-profile banker held several positions before resigning as the Chairman of Huatai Securities in 2012.

In 2014, amid the wave of Chinese venture capital founding, Yu and Sheng eventually started Aplus Fund in order to invest in startup projects in various stages of development.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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