Chinese Internet search engine Baidu Inc. is hoping a new funding initiative will propel it faster against rivals Tencent, Alibaba, and Sina.
Baidu's eyeing early stage artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality projects with a fund that seeks to initially raise US$200 million. And the company's CEO Robin Li will oversee project evaluation and investment decisions.
Li has been criticized in the past for moving slowly on making decisions on investments as the company's technology rivals have flown past it in securing good exits.
According to market research firm ITJuzi that tracks venture deals, Baidu has 96 investments recorded in its database, while Alibaba has 171 and Tencent has 311.
So Li is now focused on building back the company's lost momentum, and Chinese media report that the new venture unit will be independently run from Baidu's existing investment teams. This separation allows it to make fast decisions without having to go through complicated internal approval processes.
In the past few years, Baidu has invested around 15% of its revenues in technology research, having established research facilities specialized on big data, deep learning and artificial intelligence.