Baidu’sspectacularreceptionreportedlymadeinstantmillionairesofabout100companyemployees,butthemanwhostandstogainmostisLi,thesearchengine’sdapper37-year-olddeveloper,whose25。

8%stakeisnowworthmorethan$1bn。

AlthoughbornandraisedinChina,LiiswhattheChinesecallahaiguior“seaturtle”,saysFortune–it’sahomonymof“overseasreturnee”。

AftergraduatingfromBeijingUniversity,heheadedfortheStatesandobtainedamastersincomputerscienceatBuffalobeforeplaying“asupportingroleintheAmericantechboom”。

LicuthisteethdevelopingTheWallStreetJournal’sonlinefinancialnewssystem;hethendevelopedsearchenginesforthedotcomhigh-flierInfoseek,which(renamedGo。

com)waseventuallyboughtbyDisney。

Theexperiencewasinvaluable,andLidecidedtotryanddothesameinChina。

Heteamedupwithanotherturtle,EricXu,whoprovidedthesalesandstrategyinputLilacked,raised$11。

2mintworoundsofventurefinancingfromSiliconValleybackers,andlaunchedBaiduonChristmasday1999。

Thename,whichmeans“hundredsandthousandsoftimes”,wastakenfromanancientChineselovepoemcelebratingoneman’ssearchforperfectlove。

Hisluckybreak

Themovewasabiggamble,saysAsia-Inc。

com。

BaidustartedbyprovidingsearchservicesforChina’semergingwebportalsbeforetakingtheimportantdecisiontolaunchafree-standingsearchwebsitealongthelinesofGooglein2001。

Bythen,marketconditionswerelookingexceedinglyprecarious,saysFortune。

TothedelightofChina’srivalhome-grownentrepreneurs(popularlyknownas“potatoes”),manyofthereturningseaturtles“collapsedinChina’sowndotcombust”。

ButLihadastrokeofluck。

Google’sservicesweretemporarilyblockedbythegovernmentin2002,forcingChinesewebuserstoturntolocalsearchengines,andBaiducameuptrumps。

Google,taketwo

ThekeythingaboutLi,sayfriends,isthat“hedoesn’tcarewhatpeoplethinkabouthim”。

He’sdriven,decisiveandstubborn–wellplacedtoholdhisownagainsttheWesterntech-heavyweightsconvergingontheChinesemarket。

Baiduonlyrecentlybecameprofitable,butlocalresearchgivesit40%ofthesearchmarket,comparedtoGoogle’s30%。

“Forus[themarket]islikeTheThreeKingdoms,”saysLi,referringtothetumultuousperiodfollowingthecollapseoftheHanDynastyinthethirdcenturyAD。

“There’sus,GoogleandYahoo。

”Baidu’srelationshipwithGoogleiscomplicated:despiteitsrivalstatus,GoogletookaminorstakeinBaidulastyearand“speculationhasbeenrife”thatafullmergerisonthecards,saysTheDailyDeal。

Bothsidesdenythis,butthere’slittledoubtthatfloatinginGoogle’sslipstreamcan’thurt

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