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Qi Lu
Qi Lu. (Wikimedia Photo)

Y Combinator is extending its reach in both Seattle and China.

The famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator announced today that it has hired former Microsoft and Baidu executive Qi Lu to run a new operation in China.

In a blog post, Y Combinator President Sam Altman called China an “important missing piece of our puzzle.”

“Qi will be able to take what makes YC work and adapt it for China,” he wrote. “We are excited for Qi to come onboard as the Founding CEO of YC China and to build a long-term local organization that will combine the best of Silicon Valley and China and create a lot of innovation.”

Lu will also head up YC Research, the group’s non-profit research lab that will establish a new location in Seattle. A YC spokesperson said more details about the Seattle office will be announced after Lu settles into his new role.

YC joins more than 100 tech organizations that have opened engineering outposts in the Seattle region, hoping to tap into the rich talent pool.

Founded in 2005, YC is known for housing startups including Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Reddit, and other now-giant companies in their earliest stages. It invests $120,000 in exchange for seven percent equity and runs two batches per year.

YC’s move into China reflects the country’s continued tech growth. China is now home to nine of the world’s 20 most valuable companies, up from two in 2013, Bloomberg reported.

“We think that a significant percentage of the largest technology companies that are founded in the next decade — companies at the scale of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook — will be based in the US and China,” Altman wrote in his blog post. “YC’s greatest strength is our founder community and with the launch of YC China we believe we have a special opportunity to include many more Chinese founders in our global community.”

Lu was a longtime engineer and technology leader at Microsoft, where he helped push the company into new areas including artificial intelligence and chatbots. He was the top Microsoft executive in charge of Office, Bing and related products before his departure in September 2016.

Lu joined China tech giant Baidu in January 2017 and helped the company open an AI-focused office in the Seattle area. He left Baidu this past May.

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