China VC Weekly: Investors Go to Work Despite Coronavirus

Pony.ai self-driving car in Guangzhou (Source: Yang Yaohua, Imaginechina/AP)

China’s VC market is coming into its own as the coronavirus outbreak seems to be easing its grip on the country. Several notable investments have been made this last week, including Toyota’s bold half-a-million-dollar push into autonomous driving territory in China, Lightspeed’s bet on robotic process automation via a $42 million investment in Laiye Technology, as well as the hefty B+ round raised by the Chinese Google Doc-like platform Shimo and the $66 million C+ round completed by the children’s content platform Kaishu Story.

Toyota leads a $462 million investment in Chinese autonomous driving disruptor Pony.ai 

Chinese autonomous driving startup Pony.Ai closed a $462 million Series B round, valuing the company at over $3 billion. The investment round was led by Toyota Motor Corporation who injected over $400 million in the company. The financing will mainly be used to accelerate the development and commercial application of autonomous driving technologies. 

With total financing of nearly $800m, Pony.Ai has become one of the highest valued autonomous driving companies in the world.

On the same day, another Chinese autonomous driving startup UISEE also raised a round B led by Bosch

READ MORE: China’s Autonomous Driving Industry Blooms as Large Investments Pour In 

About Poni.ai

Founded in 2016, Pony.Ai launched a PonyPilot Robotaxi project in December 2018, and took the lead in starting the Robotaxi’s regular field operations in the pilot urban area of Nansha, Guangzhou, becoming the first company to provide Robotaxi services in China. In November 2019, Pony.Ai launched California’s first Robotaxi service for the general public. The company says it has completed more than 70,000 Robotaxi orders as of December 2019.

RPA+AI Startup Laiye Bags $42 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners

Wang Guanchun, Chairman and CEO of Laiye Technology (Source: Laiye)

Chinese Robotic process automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup Laiye Technology announced the completion of a Series C financing round of $42 million. The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and their subsidiary Lightspeed China Partners with Cathay Capital and Wu Capital following.

Wang Guanchun, Chairman and CEO of Laiye Technology, said: “This round of financing will be used to recruit the best talents in the industry, including sales and “RPA + AI” technology R & D personnel, and to continue to consolidate Laiye Technology’s business and technical capabilities.”

READ MORE: RPA+AI Startup Laiye Technology Completes $42M Series C Round

About Laiye

Founded in 2015 by former Baidu employees, Laiye Technology works in the fields of robotic process automation (RPA), process mining, natural language processing (NLP), intelligent dialog interaction, computer vision, etc. In June 2019, Laiye merged with RPA startup company Orson Technology, shortly following which the newly formed business entity completed a B + funding round of $35 million.

Shimo Docs, the Chinese challenger of Google Docs, completes a B+ round of financing

Shimo Doc interface (Source: Shimo Doc)

Chinese online enterprise software provider Shimo Docs completed a B+ round of financing worth tens of millions of dollars, according to 36Kr. The exact amount hasn’t been disclosed. It was led by Broadband Capital and Fangguang Capital and also involved NIO Capital and Huachuang Capital, while Scale Partners acted as an exclusive capital advisor. 

The Wuhan-based company responsible for the online office collaboration tool will use the funds mainly for further improvement on the performance of Shimo’s online office tools, as well as the development of new products.

Shimo Docs currently has more than 28 million registered users and over 370,000 corporate users, per official data. Monthly page views exceed 360 million, and over 100 billion words have been written on Shimo documents. Users on Shimo Docs browse, create, edit, and comment on more than 50 files per week on average.

READ MORE: Enterprise Software Platform Shimo Docs Completes B+ Round of Financing

About Shimo

Shimo Docs was incorporated as Wuhan Chuxin Technology Co., Ltd. in 2014, with branches and service centers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhan. It has maintained a leading position in the industry and has become the most complete China-made enterprise-level collaborative office suite.

Chinese kid content platform Kaishu Story raises a $66 million C+ financing round 

Wang Kai, founder and CEO of Kaishu Story (Source: ChainNews)

Children’s content education startup Kaishu Story completed a $66 million C+ round of financing, led by Zhixin Capital, Loyal Valley Capital and Singapore’s Temasek.

Kaishu Story previously raised funds from China’s largest provider of private educational services, the New Oriental Group, and Loyal Valley Capital. In July 2019, it bagged $50 million in Series C financing, led by Baidu and followed by New Oriental, TAL Education, and Kunyan Capital.

The company plans to use the funds to create more quality children’s content and educational courses as well as to provide different forms of companionship for children aged 0-12.

About Kaishu Story

Kaishu Story (lit. Uncle Kai’s Story) was founded in 2014 by Wang Kai, a former host of CCTV, and voice actor. So far the company has created over 9,000 content titles which have been played over 4 billion times. The average daily listening time has reached 50 minutes, with the platform’s total number of users exceeding 30 million.

In other news

  • Snapask, a Hong Kong-based edtech startup closed a $35 million funding round led by the Singapore-based fund Asia Partners and South Korea’s Intervest. The funds will be used to grow the company’s business in Southeast Asia and expand into new markets. The company also plans to open a regional headquarters in Singapore.
  • CoolBitX,a blockchain security company based in Taiwan, announced the completion of a $16.8 million Series B funding round led by its existing investor SBI Holdings. Other investors include The National Development Fund of Taiwan, Korean crypto exchange BitSonic, and Japan’s Monex. The new funds will be allocated towards expanding the presence of the firm’s Sygna product line beyond Asia Pacific. CoolBitX will also continue iterating its flagship product, CoolWallet S.
  • Rupeek, an Indian gold-backed online lending platform raised $60 million in two separate funding rounds from China’s GGV Capital, Bertelsmann India Investments, Binny Bansal, KB Investments, Tanglin Venture Partners, Sequoia India, and Accel Partners. The company says it will use the funds to invest in technology, customer acquisition and work towards improving the accessibility of credit in India.
  • MClogic, a Chinese startup developing semiconductor memory technologies, IPs and products for high-performance computing applications, completed its Pre-A round of financing led by CDF-Capital. 
  • The frozen food supply chain service platform “Dpdaojia completed a $35 million-yuan A3 round of financing, led by Plum Ventures. This round of financing will be mainly used to strengthen the integration and empowerment of upstream services and market expansion.
  • A steam energy-saving equipment manufacturer AcKaM announced that it has completed a new investment round worth tens of millions yuan led by Northern Light Ventures. The raised amount round will be used for technology development, marketing, and facility construction.
  • Smart retail integrated solution provider Zhuizhi Technology announced that it has recently raised tens of millions of yuan in a Pre-A round of financing led by Matrix Partners China, other investors include Gaorong Capital. The funds will be used for the development of the company’s smart retail business in Taiwan and the improvement of the full-link product ecosystem.