Alibaba Looks To HK AI Unicorn SenseTime, Edward Tian Taps Payoneer

07-Dec-2017 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:00 AM Print This Post

As noted a month ago, hot AI startup SenseTime was getting ready to raise a next round of funding before the end of this year. CEO Xu Li told me then that the amount could surpass its previous intake.

Now that appears to be coming true. None other than Alibaba is reportedly eyeing an investment of $227 million in the Hong Kong based startup that focuses on artificial intelligence research and has multiple advanced technologies for facial recognition, machine learning and smart city systems. Alibaba seeks to become the largest investor in SenseTime, which started out in 2014 at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.

SenseTime had already entered the unicorn league when it raised $410 million in a Series B round this past July, giving it a total valuation of $1.5 billion. It’s backed by Qualcomm through a recent collaboration deal as well as IDG, CDH, CICC and Chinese investment firm Sailiing Capital. SenseTime derives most of its revenues from China and counts corporate customers Huawei, China Mobile, Xiaomi, OPPO, Union Pay and Hainan Airlines.

The deal if it goes through with Alibaba reinforces a steady incline by Hong Kong tech startups as they enter a new era of respectability — dare we see awe? Others in this upstream include WeLab, GoGoVan and a mounting list of unicorns from Hong Kong, which has been in the shadows of Mainland China’s enormous progress and milestones in tech land.

Call it prescient but Silicon Dragon presented its annual Founder of the Year Award just last month to Sensetime co-creator Dr Xu. Check out the tech chat video between the SenseTime founder and his early investor Francis Leung of Luminary Capital.

The scientific and academic team behind, emboldened with 500 patents on file, probably never imagined such a scenario as reaching unicorn status and with Alibaba in the wings.

In other notable news, China Broadband Capital has led an investment in cross-border payments company Payoneer. The cross-border e-payments platform, based in New York, founded in 2005 and profitable, needs the additional financing to accelerate its Asian business and boost its local China operations, according to CEO Scott Galit.

This new Series E-1 funding in Payoneer by Edward Tian’s leading private equity firm follows last year’s $220+MM Series E investment round, which included Technology Crossover Ventures and W Capital.

Among early investors in Payoneer are Greylock Partners, NYCA Partners, PingAn Ventures, Susquehanna Growth Equity, TCV, Viola Ventures, and Wellington Management.

Payoneer joins an elite group of tech companies with its new backing by China Broadband Capital, a high profile financial investor in Airbnb, LinkedIn China, Dianping, Focus Media and Uber. Payoneer operates globally and its payout services to corporations have attracted Amazon and Google, among others, as clients. It’s all a part of the innovation that’s happening swiftly and globally in fintech.

Rebecca A. Fannin is founder/editor of news, events and research group Silicon Dragon. She is an author of three books on innovation and venture trends, and is a public speaker.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccafannin/2017/12/05/alibaba-looks-to-hong-kong-ai-unicorn-sensetime-edward-tian-taps-payoneer/

 


Category: Hong Kong

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