China’s SenseTime has become the world’s most highly valued artificial intelligence startup by raising $600 million in a funding round which was led by e-commerce giant Alibaba. This round brought the valuation of the company to over $3 billion. The company said that it had broken the record of being the largest venture capital investment in the category of artificial investment (AI) industry.
This was a series C funding for SenseTime. Other high-profile investors who joined Alibaba during this round were Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Chinese retailer Suning. Prior to this, SenseTime managed to raise $410 million during the series B funding which took place in July last year.
“SenseTime has established an AI ecosystem anchored with robust research, deep industry collaboration and diverse partnerships,” Li Xu, SenseTime’s chief executive, said in a statement Monday. “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. The funding will also help us widen the scope for more industrial application of AI, thus increasing the value of SenseTime’s global ecosystem.”
SenseTime claims to be China’s leading AI platform and algorithms supplier. They specialize in facial and image recognition, autonomous driving, medical imaging, and deep-learning hardware optimization.
Their facial recognition technology can be used for functions like bank card verification and counts state-owned telecommunications giant China Mobile phone maker Huawei and U.S chipmaker Nvidia as two of their clients.
“In China there is an advantage in areas like facial recognition because of the privacy that exists in the U.S. and elsewhere in the EU, and some of the very best facial recognition technology in the world that I’ve seen is in China,” said Breyer Capital founder Jim Breyer, an indirect investor in SenseTime through IDG.
This fresh flow of funds will help the company support their ventures like autonomous driving and augmented reality and cover the cost of AI talent and level up its computing power. The company is developing a service code-named “Viper” to parse data from thousands of live camera feeds. SenseTime is already in talks to bring their valuation to more than $4.5 billion, which would require them to raise more funds through one more round of funding.