"The market is fast-moving, fast-growing. Things that are true today may not be true tomorrow. "
- Robin Li
With Chinese ancestry, a dedication for success and a relentless passion for developing something out of nothing, Robin Li is an internet entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of $13 billion in October 2016.
Once considered the wealthiest man in China, Li is known to be the founder of Baidu, the most popular search engine in the country, and one of the most used web service in the world.
With his wealth of knowledge, experience and dedication, Li started from down to up, carving his way into his dreams with a company that was created and based on a "hundreds of times" quote that stands "in the dimmest candlelight".
Robin Li or Li Yanhong was born in Yangquan, Shanxi region of China, on November 17th, 1968. Born and raised in a middle class family, Li's parents that were factory workers have five children, and Li is the fourth.
As the only boy in the family, Li has been taught with responsibility from a young age. The young Li has also been taught to study and learn until university in order to get a decent job. Li was brought up in a poor household but his mother had been a source of strength for him and inspired him to continue with his studies. His mother motivated him to become better each day, making him to work hard ever since.
Li entered highschool with good marks, and graduated in 1987. He then entered the National Higher Education Entrance Examination where he passed and successfully entered Peking University. There, he studied Information Management, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1991.
His passion to get an even better future continued as he aimed to attend a university in the U.S. Before being accepted, he took several part-time jobs. His dreams then came to realization when he successfully entered University at Buffalo, The State University of New York to study doctorate in computer science. He received his Master's degree for Science in Computer Science in 1994.
After graduating, Robin Li worked as a Senior Consultant for the IDD Information Services at New Jersey's division of Dow Jones and Company. There he was a member of a team that developed a real-time financial information system for The Wall Street Journal's online edition news. He also worked on improving algorithms for search engines, including the RankDex algorithms (patented in the U.S., later used for Baidu). His patent was a significant innovation and ranks among the inventions that shaped internet search technology.
He worked at IDD Information Services until 1997.
Li then worked for Infoseek, a search engine company, as its staff engineer. During his moments at Infoseek, his achievement was creating a picture function, later used by Go.com. But at a time when he saw Infoseek was unable to further develop his innovations, Li was disappointed. He left infoseek in December 1999.
After Infoseek, Li co-founded Baidu in the year 2000.
Robin Li co-founded Baidu with Eric Xu. the idea to create Baidu was China, a large and powerful country with a significant amount of population. At that time, Chine has 1.3 billion people. Out of that many, a third of them were modern people that access the internet frequently.
This gave him an idea to create a search engine.
Li started collecting funds and returned to China in order to make his dreams come true. The name "Baidu" itself was inspired by a quote from the last line of a classical poem "Green Jade Table in the Lantern Festival" written by Xin Qiji.
"Having searched thousands of times in the crowd, suddenly turning back, She is there in the dimmest candlelight." (众里寻他千百度，蓦然回首，那人却在灯火阑珊处。)
"'Baidu' was inspired by a poem written more than 800 years ago during the Song Dynasty. The poem compares the search for a retreating beauty amid chaotic glamour with the search for one's dream while confronted by life's many obstacles. '...hundreds and thousands of times, for her I searched in chaos, suddenly, I turned by chance, to where the lights were waning, and there she stood.' Baidu, whose literal meaning is hundreds of times, represents persistent search for the ideal," explained Robin Li.
The reason behind Baidu gave a deep philosophy meaning to Li. Li himself described the name Baidu as a his relentless quest to achieve dreams.
Founded in January 1, 2000, Baidu was incorporated in January 8. The company's first office was located in a hotel room, not far from Peking University.
Li has been CEO of the company since January 2004. His responsibility is to oversee the company's overall strategy and business operations. He has successfully brought China and Baidu to become the fearless competitor against the likes of U.S.-based Google and Yahoo!. He also made Baidu the largest search engine with over 80 percent market share in mainland China, and the second in the world after Google.
Along with Baidu, Li has aided the company in making China to be one of the four countries globally (alongside U.S., Russia and South Korea) to possess its own core technology through innovations such as Box Computing to Open Data and Open App Platform.
Li that sees Baidu's products in overall, advancing its framework to leverage China's internet services. He is one of the person that propelled Baidu to be the one of the pioneers in the internet industry, and the first Chinese internet company to create a post-doctoral research center.
Personal Life and Achievements
Robin Li is married to Dongmin Melissa Ma. The two met in New York at a party arranged especially for Chinese students studying abroad in 1995. The couple married in October that same year after 6 months dating. They have four children; three daughters and a son.
It was said that it was Dongmin who had encouraged Li to take up internet entrepreneurship and make a living from it. Baidu's success is reflected to the couple's devotion as they spend their time supporting many charitable organizations in China as well as in many other places across the globe.
Li was the richest man in China when he passed Wang Jianlin in 2013. In September 2015, his net worth was $9.6 billion, ranking his the 7th richest man. As of October 2016, his net worth increased to $12.9 billion.
As one of the pioneers and leading figures in China's internet industry, Li's achievements are widely recognized. With his influence, Li serves as a member of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultation Conference, became the Vice Chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and Vice Chairman of the Internet Society of China (ISC). He is also a "1000 Talent" National Distinguished Expert and has received honors including "CCTV Key Figure in China’s Economy," "The Top 30 Figures in China's 30 Years of Reform," "Ten IT Leaders," and many others.
Li also made it to Forbes' list of "2012 China's Best CEOs", named in the "List of World's Most Powerful People" three years in a row, and was also included as one of the "15 Asian Scientists To Watch" by Asian Scientist Magazine.
As a visiting professor at Wuhan University, Li has published the book "Business War in Silicon Valley". The book was based on his experiences in Silicon Valley.
Li has had a hard time when Baidu faced negative publicity over ineffective drugs sold in its medical sites. He was also criticized for trying iQiyi from Baidu. While his net income fell, his fortune has increased due to the Baidu shares he owns.
On August 29, 2014, Li has been appointed by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, as co-chair of the Independent Expert Advisory Group on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development.
Li is also the Board of Director at Education & Technology Group Inc..