Baidu Capital with $3 billion fund, still looking for the right travel bet
Travel, like every industry, is dominated by giants but there are “good seeds” of innovation happening and it’s just a matter of time to pick the next big travel bet, says Jenny Wu of Baidu Capital.
Banking on an autonomous future
One sector Baidu Capital is betting on is the autonomous automotive industry. It’s invested in Grab, Uber’s competitor in Southeast Asia, for a start and has invested in NextEV, China’s answer to Tesla, the valuation of which has doubled in the past six months. “And it’s cheaper than Tesla,” she laughed.
Baidu Capital is looking to build up the full value chain around an autonomous future.
“We want to build an industry chain around new transportation – car making to travel solutions to car services and tech-AI implementation.”
“AI, like mobile Internet, will be big part of every business”
With the hottest topic right now being AI, Wu says it encompasses such a big stack of tech from voice recognition to underlying algorithms.
“There are some great new startups coming in China – it has big potential. AI, like the mobile internet, is going to be an important part of every business; it has to be covered in every business model sooner than later.”
Within Baidu Capital, she’s hired two research executives to work on AI-enabled data intelligence, and combine that with traditional research work, to assist her in decision-making.
“It’s still early stage, we are building up the database and data intelligence, and industry know-how. At the same time, we are investing in AI companies which keep us updated on the most advanced technology.”
Baidu Capital’s focus is clear – it picks only the number one or two in each segment. It doesn’t look at middle or smaller companies.
Coming back to travel, Wu is bullish on the future of Asian tigers versus global elephants. “In China, we have local players. Ctrip has greater potential to expand. It is in great shape.”
With the spotlight on tours & activities, Wu is eyeing the sector in both B2B and B2C spaces.
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