Chinese AI startup dwarfs global rivals with $4.5 billion valuation

Chinese artificial intelligence startups are attracting ever richer valuations as the country bets big on the emergin...

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 1:41 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 1:41 PM

Chinese artificial intelligence startups are attracting ever richer valuations as the country bets big on the emerging technology.

SenseTime, which specializes in software that can identify people's faces in surveillance videos, said Monday that it had secured $600 million in fresh funds and is already in talks with investors to raise more money. The latest cash injection values SenseTime at more than $4.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the company's fundraising.

That's more than any other artificial intelligence startup on the planet, according to CB Insights. The second biggest AI startup is also Chinese: Shanghai-based Yitu Technology with a valuation of about $2.4 billion.

Related: China's Didi said to be worth $56B after raising more cash

SenseTime tapped big names for cash in its latest funding round, including China's leading e-commerce company, Alibaba. It had already announced an investment from US computer chip maker Qualcomm last year.

The new funding will "help us widen the scope" for putting artificial intelligence to use in different industries, SenseTime CEO Li Xu said in a statement. Specifically, the company said it will pump more money into areas like security, smartphones, advertising and autonomous driving.

The investment comes amid intensifying commitment by corporations and governments in AI research and development, despite warnings from some tech leaders and academics of the potential misuse of the emerging technology.

The world's biggest tech companies like Google and Facebook are pouring resources into artificial intelligence. Last week, Apple said it had poached Google's AI chief to help boost its own efforts in the technology.

Related: Google is opening an artificial intelligence center in China

Facial recognition technology in particular is big business in China, including in government efforts to keep tabs on citizens.

SenseTime's software is already used by Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo to organize photo albums or unlock phones by scanning faces.

Alibaba said it is still figuring out how to use SenseTime tech in its businesses. One potential area could be in the company's cashless grocery store chain.

Chinese retailer Suning, which has also invested in SenseTime, is already using the startup's software to develop cashier-free stores. They're similar to Amazon Go, where shoppers can just grab products and walk out, with AI software determining what was taken from shelves and settling the bill electronically.

SenseTime said it has more than 400 partners and clients using its AI applications.

That includes city governments that have paired facial recognition software with the massive number of surveillance cameras trained on city streets. AI software analyzes the footage, scanning faces to identify people or analyzing crowds to detect suspicious behavior.

Related: Control AI now or brace for nightmare future, experts warn

SenseTime said as far as it knows, Chinese police have only used the company's tech to catch criminals.

But critics have slammed the deployment of AI to track Chinese citizens, saying it violates privacy and targets political dissidents.

China has said it wants to be the dominant player in AI by 2030, aiming to build an industry worth $150 billion. The country's ambitious surveillance plans have helped spur spending on the technology.

Investment in facial recognition tech, including government grants, surged to $1.7 billion in 2017, a more than sixfold increase from the previous year, according to a CB Insights report.

All that cash has made China home to some of the most valuable AI startups on the planet, including SenseTime, Yitu and Megvii, according to CB Insights.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 24850

Reported Deaths: 1050
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8393613
Ramsey3019124
Stearns202113
Nobles15395
Anoka139970
Dakota132755
Washington63632
Olmsted62610
Kandiyohi4961
Rice4622
Scott4262
Clay42328
Mower3182
Todd3160
Wright3131
Sherburne2432
Carver2102
Benton1773
Steele1580
Blue Earth1400
Martin1305
St. Louis11814
Freeborn1170
Pine890
Unassigned8910
Nicollet8710
Winona7915
Cottonwood750
Watonwan740
Carlton730
Crow Wing712
Otter Tail680
Goodhue663
Chisago611
Polk612
Lyon560
Itasca5410
Dodge520
Chippewa511
Morrison460
Meeker450
Le Sueur441
Douglas420
Becker400
Jackson390
Murray390
McLeod370
Isanti350
Waseca260
Rock220
Mille Lacs191
Pennington190
Faribault180
Swift180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Brown162
Sibley160
Beltrami150
Cass142
Norman130
Marshall120
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope90
Aitkin80
Koochiching80
Mahnomen61
Yellow Medicine60
Lincoln50
Redwood50
Big Stone50
Renville50
Red Lake40
Grant40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Traverse30
Houston20
Hubbard20
Roseau20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19521

Reported Deaths: 535
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4227126
Woodbury275034
Black Hawk174644
Linn95577
Dallas90421
Marshall89416
Buena Vista7830
Johnson6149
Wapello59310
Muscatine55741
Crawford5162
Tama40327
Scott35910
Dubuque34418
Louisa34411
Sioux2750
Pottawattamie2638
Jasper26016
Washington1898
Wright1690
Plymouth1322
Warren1320
Allamakee1214
Story1151
Mahaska9410
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer706
Des Moines631
Boone620
Clinton611
Taylor560
Clarke550
Guthrie503
Cedar471
Benton431
Webster401
Monroe385
Shelby370
Hamilton370
Jones360
Clayton353
Buchanan330
Iowa330
Osceola330
Marion320
Cerro Gordo291
Madison282
Cherokee280
Lee270
Fayette270
Jefferson270
Lyon240
Monona240
Winneshiek240
Harrison230
Davis220
Dickinson210
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Sac190
Humboldt180
Hardin170
Lucas170
Clay160
Butler161
Hancock160
Delaware150
Emmet150
Keokuk150
Appanoose153
Ida140
Franklin130
Page130
Greene130
Howard120
Cass120
Audubon121
Pocahontas120
Jackson120
Winnebago110
Carroll100
Chickasaw100
Kossuth90
Adair90
Van Buren90
Union80
Adams70
Montgomery70
Palo Alto60
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Ringgold40
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned10
Rochester
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 66°
Mason City
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Albert Lea
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 64°
Austin
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 66°
Charles City
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 64°
Things are about to get hot
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Minnesota churches open doors to more congregants

Image

George Floyd protests continue in Austin on Sunday

Image

Sean Weather 5/31 2

Image

Rochester restaurant prepares to open patio to public

Image

Sean Weather 5/31

Image

Rochester People's Rally

Image

Religious leaders call for justice for George Floyd

Image

Rochester downtown under curfew Saturday night

Image

Sean Weather 5/30

Image

Governor Walz GivesUpdate

Community Events