China AI — 2020 Top Deals
Three of the most promising AI startups in China made the news with their record breaking deals despite the pandemic.
The race is on between the top two economic giants of the world — the U.S. and China — to dominate the world in artificial intelligence (AI). In 2020, despite the market impact from COVID-19, the Chinese AI scene continued to forge ahead, setting records in financial deals.
Quadtalent Technology received more than US$20 million in a seed funding round led by venture capital firm Gaorong Capital in June 2020. Quadtalent is a digital transformation solutions provider that specializes in digitalization and A.I. enablement.
Founder and CEO Dr. Min Wanli is a child prodigy. A member of the Special Class for Gifted Young, he entered the University of Science and Technology of China when he was 14 and graduated with a degree in Physics at 19. Thereafter, he pursued and received a Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Chicago in 2004.
He founded Quadtalent in 2019. Prior to that he was working for IBM, Google and Alibaba, where he was the Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist at Alibaba Cloud.
Dr. Min has also started a venture capital firm call North Summit Capital, which wants to invest in “AI for social good” by focusing on enabling traditional industries. He is also an appointed advisor on the China government’s National Committee of Next-generation A.I. Strategy.
Biren Technology received 1.1 billion reminbi (US$ 170 million) in a series A round from a multitude of well known investors— Qiming Venture Capital, IDG Capital, Walden International, V Fund, Green Pine Capital Partners, Meridian Capital and others. The amount set a new record for series A in China.
The company, which wants to produce general purpose AI chip design, was only nine months old when it received the injection in June 2020. It’s core team is comprised of engineers with post-graduate degrees from the Ivy Leagues of both the U.S. and China.
Two months later, they successfully raised another pre-B round of about 900 million renminbi (US$139 million) from another long list of venture capital funds, in addition to follow on investments from some of the series A investors.
Biren intends to use the funds raised for product R&D and market development. It has also set up two technology scholarships in Tsing Hua University to nurture new talent.
AI unicorn Cambricon debuted on China’s new Science & Technology Board in July 2020 with an eye-popping 246% gain. It immediately became the darling of local stock markets with market capitalization topping 100 billion renminbi at one point.
The proceeds from its IPO are going towards its core operations and operating cash flow, as well as projects to build new generation cloud AI chips and systems, and an edge computing AI chip.
On January 21st, 2021, Cambricon launched its new MLU290-M5 seven nanometer AI training chip and the Xuansi 1000 AI accelerator card. The Xuansi 1000 combines four MLU290–5 chips together to give a computing speed of up to 4.1 PetaOPS INT4. The company claims one unit can fully replace a small traditional super computing center.
In addition to these three companies, two other AI startups have also filed for IPOs in December 2020.
Intellifusion, a digital city solutions provider which offers both hardward and software solutions, including a proprietary AI chip.
Cloudwalk, an integrated AI solutions provider that incorporates computer vision, voice technology and natural language processing into their products.
Yitu Technology, a face recognition startup, is also said to be contemplating a listing. Rival SenseTime is rumored to be considering dual listings in China and Hong Kong within three years.