The biggest tech news today is … someone poured a bottle of water over Robin Li, founder of Baidu.
This incident happened during the Baidu Create 2019 conference in Beijing, where Robin was making a speech about AI. The conference is aimed for Baidu’s ecosystem of AI developers, and the tickets, at CNY 2399 (US$350) each, were sold out.
So the perpetrator probably paid US$350 plus whatever transport/accommodation costs if he came from another city, to douse Robin Li with water. The security at the conference was tight, fortunately – other liquid was not allowed.
Baidu is hated by many in China and is falling behind Alibaba & Tencent. It seems nobody talks about BAT anymore. It tried very hard to revamp itself, especially in AI lately, but with Andrew Ng and Lu Qi departing in succession, there is quite a bit of uncertainty on that front.
In the meantime, its effort to expand internationally almost completely flopped. This is actually quite sad because it was one of the pioneers among Chinese tech companies venturing overseas.
The problem, at the end of the day, was that search was still the major revenue contributor. And as a listed company, it is difficult to revamp itself. Although some people saw some hope a few weeks ago when Baidu’s long term search boss departed.
Robin remained cool after being soaked. He said (in English) “What is your problem” while wiping the water off his face. He kept calm and said in a bit “There are lots of unexpected obstacles on the road of pursuing AI”.
Some speculated that he might have staged it himself, as he was very calm throughout – he did not even try to dodge when the water bottle first appeared. That claim is unlikely to be true in our opinion.
However, Taobao seller once again exhibited their agility and creativity: