China facial recognition company SenseTime smashes own funding record with latest Alibaba and Temasek backing

SenseTime’s facial recognition technology can spot people through cameras such as CCTVs.
The Straits Times

China’s leading artificial intelligence company SenseTime has broken its previous venture capital record with $600m raised in a latest Series C funding round led by Alibaba Group.

Listing other funding participants such as Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek and Chinese retail enterprise Suning, this round surpasses the record set last July when the three-year-old startup raised $410 million in a Series B round.

With a valuation of more than $3 billion, SenseTime, which has the capability to analyse faces and images on a large scale, has now become the world’s most valuable AI startup, according to a Bloomberg report.

The capital injection will drive the expansion of SenseTime’s AI platform, advance technological innovations and open up new business opportunities, said a statement from the company on Monday (April 9)

The company’s high-performance deep learning supercomputing platform is one of China’s largest and leads the industry in fields such as facial and image recognition, autonomous driving, medical imaging and deep learning hardware optimisation.

Alibaba Group has observed tangible benefits from AI investments and is impressed by SenseTime’s R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing, said Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group.

He also hopes that the partnership will “spark more innovation and create value for society”.

The financing will drive the expansion of SenseTime’s AI platform, advance technological innovation and create new business opportunities.

“Our Round C funding will maximise these advantages by accelerating the development of a global footprint with a larger ecosystem incorporating both domestic and overseas partners,” said Li Xu, co-founder and CEO of SenseTime.

“The funding will also help us widen the scope for more industrial application of AI, thus increasing the value of SenseTime’s global ecosystem.”

Being China’s largest AI platform company and AI algorithms supplier, it is no surprise that SenseTime already has over 400 strategic partnerships under its belt.

In 2017, it partnered with Qualcomm for an “algorithm + chip” collaboration, which aimed to increase the intelligence of smartphones and other devices. It is also working with Honda Motor Co. to develop industry-leading autonomous driving systems.

SenseTime’s partner companies range across security, fintech, automobile, retail, smartphone, mobile Internet and robotics.