From Intern to VP: Meet Baidu's 29-Year-Old Boss of Mobile
For Baidu, a company where the average age of its 21,000 employees is 26, promoting a 29-year-old to vice president may not seem like a big deal. Mark Zuckerberg, after all, is that age.
But Li Mingyuan, who began at the company in 2004 as an intern, last month became the youngest vice president ever of China's largest search engine. And he's taking on no small task: head of the mobile and cloud division for a company worth $49 billion.
Baidu is betting that Li's new face will lead the company into the next era as competition heats up with Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding.
“Li Mingyuan has proven to be a person of vision,” said Lucy Zhang, a Beijing-based analyst at Internet consulting group IResearch. “The past strategies that he did have proven to be the right direction that the company needs to head toward.”
Li last week revealed plans to boost Baidu's mobile market share by providing users access to so-called "lite apps" that don't need to be downloaded on its mobile search platform. The lite apps are mostly provided by third party developers and now include services for calling cabs, entertainment and health care.
Baidu has about a dozen lite apps and will encourage developers to explore more sectors including finance, said Li. The company will also set up revenue-sharing models with the developers in the future, said Li.
The executive, who isn’t related to Baidu Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robin Li, was the first product manager of Tieba, which was the biggest online forum in China. Li was promoted to senior product marketing manager at the age of 22 and general manager of e-commerce in 2007.
Li graduated from the Communication University of China and holds an MBA from China Europe International Business School.
“Back in 2004, I bumped into Li Mingyuan on the bus one day and he told me, ‘I just joined this company called Baidu,’” said Wang Zheng, a teacher at Communication University of China, who was a student adviser. “Even back then, you could tell that he was very decisive and had a lot going on in his mind.”