Chinese A.I. company SenseTime raises more than $1 billion in back-to-back funding rounds

  • Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime has raised more than $1 billion in recent months.
  • SenseTime said Thursday that it raised $620 million in fresh funds from investors like Fidelity International, Hopu Capital, Silver Lake and Tiger Global.
  • That announcement followed the company earlier raising $600 million in funds from Alibaba, Suning.com and Temasek.
Xiaoou Tang, founder of SenseTime, speaks at the Jumpstarter start-up pitch event in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.
Vivek Prakash | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Xiaoou Tang, founder of SenseTime, speaks at the Jumpstarter start-up pitch event in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

Investors are pouring funds into Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime.

The image recognition firm said Thursday that it raised $620 million in fresh funds from prominent investors including Fidelity International, Hopu Capital, Silver Lake and Tiger Global. Chipmaker Qualcomm's venture capital arm also participated in the round.

The new funds would be invested into research and development and acquiring talent, according to the company.

SenseTime said it is now valued at over $4.5 billion, maintaining its standing as one of the most valuable AI start-ups in the world.

Thursday's announcement comes just months after the start-up said it raised $600 million in funds from Alibaba, Chinese retailer Suning.com and Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings.

Last year, SenseTime raised $410 million in funds. In total, the start-up now has capital of more than $1.6 billion.

SenseTime said it became profitable last year and had been growing by about 400 percent on-year for the last three consecutive years. Its business contract revenue has increased by more than 10-fold for this year until May, SenseTime said.

The company's AI-based technologies can recognize faces, characters and images as well as provide video analysis. Those technologies are being used to develop smart cities and applied in areas of internet entertainment, autonomous automobiles, finance, retail and other industries. Chinese authorities also use SenseTime's technology to carry out surveillance to identify persons of interest during criminal investigations.

SenseTime said it has more than 700 strategic partners and customers including Chinese telecommunication giant China Mobile as well as Huawei and Xiaomi.

In recent months, the company said it signed agreements with China's largest subway operator, Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, to use AI to monitor metro traffic, and with the city of Chengdu to create a regional headquarter. The firm also teamed up with Alibaba and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park to create the HK AI Laboratory to transform Hong Kong into an innovation hub.

Since finding sufficient talent is a common problem for many AI firms, SenseTime has also created a textbook to get the next generation of Chinese students interested in the technology. The company said it plans to develop AI-driven courses and lab experiments to promote the technology in schools.

China has previously said it wants to become the world leader in AI by 2030 — a goal that's led to rapid developments in the country.

For example, Beijing plans to build a $2.12 billion artificial intelligence park in the city to house companies working in areas of big data, bio-metric identification, deep learning and cloud computing, according to reports.

Local tech companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, on-demand services provider Meituan-Dianping and speech and language recognition firm iFlytek are already working extensively on various fields of AI.