Baidu sets up a $140 million venture capital AI fund

Rebbeca Ren

posted on May 31, 2023 11:36 pm

Chinese search giant Baidu said on Wednesday that it will set up a venture capital fund of 1 billion yuan ($140 million) to back start-ups focused on content generated by artificial intelligence applications.

The company is also set to launch a competition for developers to build applications using its ERNIE Large Language Model (LLM) or to integrate the model into their existing products. The winner will receive a prize of 10 million yuan.

"We are on the hunt for the most promising concepts and will provide funding support," Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu, said. "While US developers are pioneering new applications centered on ChatGPT or other language models, in China, a greater number of developers will be employing our ERNIE Bot as a basis."

Baidu launched its own ChatGPT-like product, ERNIE Bot, in March. During a recent earnings call with analysts, the company revealed that it will integrate ERNIE Bot into its search service with the aim of attracting new users and profitably increasing market share.  Following this, the company plans to expand the availability of the bot to its smart driving division and business partners.

The giant also expects a growing number of entrepreneurs and business owners to build their own models and applications on its AI Cloud. Last week, Baidu announced that it is gearing up for the imminent release of Ernie 3.5. 

Earlier this year, the outstanding performance of ChatGPT 3.5 shocked the Chinese tech community, and it is widely believed that a new technology revolution led by generative artificial intelligence would be on the horizon. To keep up with the new trend, a bunch of Chinese tech companies, from giants to startups, are racing to launch their own LLMs. in February launched ChatJD, a ChatGPT-style product focused on the retail and financial sectors, while Alibaba launched its big language model, Tongyi Qianwen, in April and embedded it in its cloud service, opening it up to corporate customers and developers.

According to a Reuters report, almost 80 organizations in China have launched their own LLMs since 2020, with releases this year slightly exceeding those of the US.