Although, he is sometimes
compared with legendary U.S. tech execs such as Jobs, Larry Ellison or
Bill Gates, Li's passion does not boil over into the shouting fits that
they are known for.
"I have to say I am one of the nice ones, a
lot of people describe me as nice or soft, but I don’t believe
personality defines your destiny," Li said. "What matters is how much
you are willing to work and how good you are."
two stints in Silicon Valley as a computer scientist working on search
algorithms before he returned to China to co-found Baidu in 2000. "I was
not that busy, and I had a lot of ideas, but no one would listen to
them, so I wrote a book," he said, referring to his 1999
Chinese-language work, "Business Wars in Silicon Valley."
in Yangquan, China, by parents who were factory workers, he is now
considered the second richest man in China with a search engine that
serves an estimated 500 million people.
"I never thought about
starting my own business until a year before I started Baidu," Li said. "As a young person, my GPA was not high--I played a lot."
Li eventually buckled down, got good grades and came to the U.S. for
his doctorate degree. After school, he worked as a researcher for a
"I realized I was not cut out to be a professor, struggling
for many years with hard problems," he said. "After I got into
industry, I realized I wanted to build something many people could use."
Baidu went five years without anyone in the CEO chair,
until the company took off and had to have a chief executive as it
prepared to go public. Li took the job in about 2004 and still holds it
"I didn’t believe I was cut out to be a CEO," Li said. "I
am an engineer, and my passion is products--I don’t like government
relations, and I don’t like drinking alcohol late at night with people I
don’t really like," he quipped.