The world’s most valuable AI company has done it again! Just over a month after China’s SenseTime announced the close of a $600 million funding round, the company has closed yet another Series C+ round of funding, raising $620 million. The latest round brings the three-year-old company’s valuation up to $4.5 billion, maintaining its position as the world’s largest and most valuable AI firm. The new round of funding saw participation from investment firms such as Fidelity International, Hopu Capital, Silver Lake, and Tiger Global as well as existing investor Qualcomm Ventures.
SenseTime was set up by Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Tang Xiaoou and is one of the firms pushing to realise the Chinese government’s aim to make the country the world leader in AI technology by 2030. Before the two latest massive funding rounds, SenseTime had raised $410 million in a Series B round in July 2017 as well as an undisclosed amount from Qualcomm in a Corporate Round in November 2017. The Series C+ round thus brings the company’s total known funding to date to $1.6 billion, which the company has said it will use to push its R&D and talent acquisition efforts further.
In its press statement about the latest funding round, SenseTime also revealed that it has had a consistent 400 percent growth rate for the last three years, making it profitable for the first time in 2017. The company’s business contract also increased by more than 10-fold by May this year, as it confirmed partnerships with a variety of clients. These include an agreement with Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, the largest subway operator in China, to deploy AI solutions for metro traffic monitoring; a partnership with Alibaba and Hong Kong Science & Technology Park to establish The HK AI Laboratory “to help Hong Kong transform into an international center of science and innovation”; as well as creating “the world’s first AI textbook” for secondary schools, to be deployed in more than 40 domestic high schools across China.
SenseTime’s growth comes at a time when more and more companies around the world are pushing R&D into AI capabilities around the world. Google’s demo of its Google Duplex technology at I/O last month blew minds around the world, Microsoft has taken steps to actively develop its own AI capabilities, and in India, the government’s policy think tank NITI Aayog has signed agreements with companies including Google and ABB to push research, technology, and investment in AI, Machine Learning (ML), and robotics.
The Internet Trends 2018 report by Mary Meeker, revealed yesterday, warns of large-scale disruption as a result of the technology, particularly in the global jobs sector, but also predicts AI as one of the key Economic Growth Drivers of the future. The stakes are incredibly high, and everybody, including SenseTime, is gunning for the prize – taking the lead in one of the key technologies that will drive the world of the future.