Recently, SenseTime, a facial recognition startup made history by undertaking the largest AI financing round ever. The firm raised S$787 million (US$600 million) from investors like Temasek Holdings and Alibaba Holdings among others at a valuation of over S4 billion (US$3 billion). This exercise propelled SenseTime into the most valuable AI startup globally.
SenseTime deals with various AI-related fields including deep-learning hardware optimization, medical imaging, autonomous driving and image and facial recognition. The firm closed its Series C round of funding in recent months whereby Suning. com also took part as an investor. Although SenseTime failed to disclose individual investments, Alibaba Holdings was recognized for acquiring the most substantial stake in the firm.
Alibaba can be expected to utilize its recent collaboration with SenseTime in transforming business methods as well as rolling out new products and services. Jose Tsai, Alibaba’s VC, responded to the financing round by saying that the company was impressed with SenseTime’s R&D capabilities in visual computing and deep learning. He emphasized that Alibaba had already begun to witness tangible benefits from its investments in artificial intelligence (AI). As such, Jose Tsai said that Alibaba’s strategic partnership with SenseTime would trigger increased innovation and build value for the society.
Thanks to the recent deal, SenseTime doubled its valuation in only a few months. Also, with the support of Qualcomm, the startup underscores its status among home-grown firms that have been championing Beijing’s ambition to become an AI leader by 2020.
SenseTime prides itself on being a leading collaborator to the largest surveillance system in the world. In fact, if you have ever walked the streets of cities in China or been photographed using a phone China-made phone, your face may have found itself into SenseTime’s software. The software is incorporated into over 100 million mobile devices.
With a recent valuation of $3 billion, SenseTime boasts of business partnerships with both international and Chinese companies. Mainly, the startup works with Honda in a bid to offer autonomous driving technologies and with Qualcomm to boost the intelligence of smartphones. SenseTime also has an ongoing partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on the university’s Quest project. Furthermore, the firm claims to have about 400 partners and clients such as Xiaomi, a smartphone maker, and Nvidia Corp, a chipmaker.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an enormous industry in China, which the country seeks to expand significantly. Nevertheless, Paul Triolo, Eurasia Group’s analyst said that China lags behind the United States in creating top-of-the-line hardware design despite its efforts to become the AI chip race winner.
Raj Reddy, a pioneer in AI at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, said that China has been investing considerably in all aspects of IT including chip design and quantum computing. Looking at the country’s efforts, it seems that nothing can stop her from attaining her goals. What’s more, China plans to build a $2.1 billion artificial intelligence (AI) technology park in the western suburbs of Beijing.
China appears to be winning regarding numbers in its race with the US to become leaders in AI. According to In-Q-Tel, a US research company, the US government’s total expenditure on unclassified AI projects in 2016 was a mere $1.2 billion.