When Chinese tech giant Baidu bought hardware startup Raven Tech early last year for about $90 million, executives hoped the maker of smart speakers would be a lynchpin of Baidu’s artificial intelligence strategy. Raven’s central role seemed to be cemented when its speaker received prominent billing at Baidu’s annual tech conference in November.
But a few months later, after poor sales and internal disagreements over whether to sell a high-end device or a mass market one, Raven Tech engineers were told to stop working on the speaker, known as the Raven H. Baidu ended up making fewer than 10,000 units of the speaker. Raven Tech founder Lyu Cheng is now considering leaving Baidu, people close to Mr. Lyu said. By late last year, Baidu’s software AI engineers were focusing their attention on a lower-price speaker with a screen made by Ainemo, another startup that Baidu partly owns.