Tsinghua University-Backed NLP Startup DeepLang AI Reportedly Has A Valuation of $100M

On April 9, QbitAI reported that DeepLang AI, an AI startup founded by a team from the Natural Language Processing Laboratory at Tsinghua University (THUNLP), has completed a new round of financing with a market valuation of approximately $100 million. A new round of financing for DeepLang AI has also begun.

DeepLang AI has gained attention not only for its focus on large models but also due to rumors of a potential acquisition by Meituan Co-founder Wang Huiwen. Media outlet AI Tech Talk reported that Wang is interested in acquiring DeepLang AI and Model Best, two startups incubated by THUNLP. This research unit was established at the end of the 1970s by Huang Changning, a pioneer of NLP in China who mentored Sun Maosong. Qi Fanchao, founder of DeepLang AI, is a student of Sun’s.

DeepLang AI was established in the middle of last year with a primary focus on AI and NLP. The company aims to develop an industrial-level Chinese information processing engine using a self-developed large-scale model. Qi Fanchao, who graduated from Tsinghua University’s Department of Electronic Engineering in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree and obtained his Ph.D. in the Department of Computer Science and Technology from the same university in 2017, specializing in NLP research, is the founder and CEO. Li Xiaoxiang, co-founder and COO, also received his Ph.D. from Tsinghua University’s Department of Electronic Engineering in 2017. Currently, Sun serves as the company’s chief scientist.

The company offers two publicly available products: WantWords and WantQuotes. In November 2021, WantWords went viral on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform. It is a reverse dictionary that searches for words based on users’ descriptions rather than providing meanings of words provided by users. On the other hand, WantQuotes can find sentences based on users’ descriptions.

Waves‘ report stated that NLP entrepreneurs at Tsinghua University originate from three sources: the Knowledge Engineering Group (KEG) led by Tang Jie and Li Juanzi, THUNLP led by Sun Maosong, and Conversational AI (CoAI) research group led by Zhu Xiaoyan and Huang Minlie.

Zhipu AI, owned by Tang Jie, is valued at more than 3 billion yuan ($436 million). Meanwhile, Recurrent AI, an NLP startup, was founded by Tang’s student Yang Zhilin. Lingxin Intelligence was established by Huang Minlie and introduced its first product “AI Utopia” in 2022.

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According to some investment firm partners, the current trend of large-scale model entrepreneurship may seem to be flourishing, but in reality, there are only a handful of major players and very few venture capital firms entering this field. These companies can be broadly categorized into two groups: entrepreneurs from AI and internet giants, as well as talented individuals from universities and research institutions.