A Chinese artificial intelligence startup has just closed a funding round worth $600 million, which is the single largest venture investment in the burgeoning AI industry.
SenseTime, a Beijing-based face and image recognition brand that rates itself as China’s top AI company, says the cash will provide it with an “important impetus” to continue “opening up new business opportunities”. The company was founded by Tang Xiaoou, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
In recent months SenseTime has busied itself moving into new industries. Last year it announced partnerships with Honda, Qualcomm and Suning, and is working on medical solutions. Last November Reuters revealed the firm was planning an IPO this year. Its current value is reckoned at around $3bn.
“We are growing very fast, funding is never an issue,” Tang said at the time. “We can get as much as we want. Big-name investors are queuing to get in. So for us, we are not in a hurry to IPO. But at the right time, we definitely will.”
“Our Round C funding will maximize these advantages by accelerating the development of a global footprint with a larger ecosystem incorporating both domestic and overseas partners,” said co-founder and CEO Li Xu today. “The funding will also help us widen the scope for more industrial application of AI, thus increasing the value of SenseTime’s global ecosystem.”
Today’s news is yet another mega-investment by Alibaba, which last week purchased food delivery service Eli.me for $9.5bn. It adds yet more high-tech clout to the Jack Ma-headed firm, which insiders say is attempting to capitalize on uncertainty in Silicon Valley to jump ahead of American brands in leading edge sectors like AI.