Pakistani-American venture capitalist Asad Jamal hit it big with Baidu, China's search giant worth over $90 billion in market capitalization today. Jamal founded ePlanet Capital in Silicon Valley in 1999 and became an early investor in Baidu at its founding in 2000.
In addition to its search business, Baidu also runs an e-commerce platform with an online payment tool, develops and markets web application software, and provides human resource related services.
Here's is how Jamal has described his experience of working with Baidu's founder Robin Lee:
"I first experienced this Chinese tech dynamism when, inspired by the late-1990s Internet start-up culture, I moved to Silicon Valley and founded ePlanet Capital, a venture capital firm. I was new to the field and unsure what to expect. In 2000, I met Robin Li, a Chinese entrepreneur in his twenties who was seeking funding for his new company, Baidu. Based on conventional investment criteria, Baidu’s chances of success seemed low. The company had no track record, limited funding, and an inexperienced team, yet they were aiming to challenge search giants Google and Yahoo. But I soon learned that in the new Internet world, these obstacles were perfectly normal and surmountable by visionary, passionate entrepreneurs with big dreams and ideas. Consequently, my firm went ahead and invested in Robin’s vision. Within five years of that first meeting, Baidu went from little more than an idea to being the leader in China’s Internet search industry, leaving Google and Yahoo far behind. Today, it is one of China’s top three Internet companies, forming the so-called BAT triumvirate along with Alibaba and Tencent. Robin himself is now the Larry Page (or Bill Gates) of China, with a net worth of over $10 billion".
Jamal believes that China offers a good example for Pakistan to follow to develop its own technology business to "break its cycle of poverty". Here's an excerpt from an article he wrote for Project Syndicate:
"The good news for Pakistan and other countries in a similar position is that tech start-ups require far fewer resources than traditional large-scale industrial firms. Whereas the latter typically need hundreds of millions of dollars in capital, plant and machinery, and bank loans, tech companies need only a small team of smart people, computers, modest funding, and mentorship. Young Pakistani entrepreneurs are just as well placed as their Chinese counterparts were two decades ago: they need big ideas and encouragement to build on them. Here, of course, the provision of venture capital is essential. Pakistan should therefore establish a national venture capital fund to promote technology entrepreneurship. Moreover, China’s rise as an economic and technology leader gives Pakistan a unique opportunity to learn from its neighbor and collaborate with it in education, science, and technology. And Pakistan should leverage its historical ties with US and British universities in these areas".
Here's a video of Asad Jamal's speech at Islamabad National University's inaugural event also attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan: