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Robin Li

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Robin Li, co-founder of the Chinese search engine Baidu, is ranked as the second richest man in mainland China with a net worth of $12.231 billion as of December 2013.

Li was born in Yangquan, Shanxi Province, China, where he spent most of his childhood. Li is the fourth of five children — and the only boy — and his parents were both factory workers. He graduated from Peking University with a Bachelor of Science in information management, and in the fall of 1991, Li started at the University of Buffalo to study for a doctorate in computer science. He completed his Master of Science degree in 1994 and then decided to not continue with PhD. studies.

After earning his Master’s degree, Li joined IDD Information Services – a New Jersey division of Dow Jones & Company – where he helped develop a software program for the online edition of The Wall Street Journal. While at IDD, Li developed the Rankdex site-scoring algorithm for search engine page ranking, which was awarded a U.S. patent. The later PageRank algorithm – developed by Larry Page – which became Google was inspired by Rankdex. Rankdex would be used for the Baidu search engine.

After leaving IDD in 1996, Li became a staff engineer for Infoseek, a pioneer Internet search engine company, from July 1997 to December 1999. In 2000, he founded Baidu. Li has turned the company into the largest Chinese search engine, with over 80 percent market share by search query, and the second largest independent search engine in the world.

On August 5, 2005, Baidu successfully completed its IPO on NASDAQ, and in 2007, the company became the first Chinese company to be included in the NASDAQ-100 Index. Li appeared in CNN Money’s annual list of “50 people who matter now” in 2007.

In 1998, Li publisehd the book “Business War in Silicon Valley.” In 2001, he was named one of the “Chinese Top Ten Innovative Pioneers.” In 2002 and 2003, he was consecutively named one of “IT Ten Famous Persons.” He received plenty of similar awards in later years, and then in 2006, he was named 2006’s “World’s Best Business Leader” by the American Business Weekly.

Li married his wife, Dongmin Ma (better known as Melissa), after only six months of dating. They married in New Jersey, and they now have four children — three daughters, one son.

Companies and Investments

Baidu (co-founder), Education & Technology Group, Inc. (Board of Directors).

Lessons Learned

Follow your gut. If you have a passion for something that makes you really excited, pursue it. I knew I loved the internet and programming the minute I dove into it. I put all of myself into it and never looked back.

Inspiring Quotes

Robin Li's Quotes

If you are a big company, a big website, and lots of users come to your website, you will have attacks, and you have to deal with that. It just cannot be a reason to take actions to exit certain markets.

Robin Li

People can get information - on entertainment, politics, finance - much easier than before. That will change the way people do business, the way people live.

Robin Li

I’m an entrepreneur. I’m not a politician.

Robin Li

The internet population is going up and up. I am confident that this will be a huge market.

Robin Li

The Chinese government still would like to see U.S. Internet companies explore the Chinese market, providing they are willing to abide by Chinese law. I think companies like Facebook should think about the Chinese market.

Robin Li

Influential Books


Jonathan J. Hull (a former research associate professor at Buffalo), Melissa (wife)