SenseTime, a Beijing-based company, raised $620 million in its latest Series C+ round of fundraising, remaining the world’s most valuable and largest AI unicorn at a valuation of over $4.5 billion.
Many prominent firms, such as Fidelity International, Hopu Capital, Silver Lake and Tiger Global today, with backers include Qualcomm Ventures were leading the investment, along with other strategic investors.
Last month, the company just received its $600 million Alibaba-led Series C funding in which Singaporean state investment firm Temasek Holdings and Chinese retailer Suning.com also took part.
SenseTime turned profitable in 2017 and marked millstones in putting in use its core computer vision technologies, including face recognition, video analysis, text recognition across conventional and emerging industries.
SenseTime’s reported revenue has maintained a stunning 400% year-on-year solid growth over the past three years. This year up until May, its business contract revenue has increased by more than tenfolds.
About 300 million China Mobile users had their identity verified through the SenseTime algorithms, said Bing Xu, Co-founder of SenseTime, during his speech at a tech influencer event last year.
More than that, SenseTime claims to have an extensive customer base of some 400 companies and government agencies at home and abroad including Japanese automaker Honda, Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus, Xiaomi and chipset designer Qualcomm.
“In China, SenseTime has been working closely with the government for AI-based solutions such as facial recognition surveillance and been supporting more than 40 police bureaus”, said June Jin, Chief Marketing Officer of SenseTime, in her interview with The New Yorker.
Starting from face scanners, the company attracts the attention of Chinese government as “a new economic engine” that can turn into a 150 billion worth industry and pledges to become a world leader in the industry by 2030.
Besides facial recognition technology, SenseTime has been exploring more possibilities that AI-based technology can apply. The new product family features SenseMedia, a AI-based platform able to detect inappropriate video and image; Sense Foundry, visual analysis platform eyeing on building a smart and safe city and SenseDrive DMS (driver monitoring system), a solution aiming to prevent drowsy driving by using AI to monitor the driver’s condition.
It also launched Sense AR, China’s first and only locally developed augmented reality platform, which has broken the monopoly of foreign AR engines whose forerunner are Google’s AR Core and Apple’s AR Kit. It is reported to launch the first AI-powered textbook for middle school students and will be launching AI courses partnering with 40 high schools in China, looking to empowering the young generation with AI technology.
SenseTime, or “Shangtang” in Chinese, shares the same name with a Chinese ancient emperor back in the Shang Dynasty (BC 1600–BC1046). Founded in 2014, SenseTime was initially an academic project as the founder Prof. Xiao’ou Tang, a MIT PhD graduate specializing in computer vision and deep learning technologies, chairs the Department of Information Engineering in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Ever since it turned into real business, SenseTime has recorded remarkable growth in terms of patents and customer base, and made itself the inarguable leader in the AI industry.
The company needs the capital for R&D and talent acquisition. The new money will clear the way for it to seek global expansion and better consolidate the industry ecosystem. The company has long considered an IPO but nothing is fixed yet.