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SenseTime raises funds to expand global presence

By Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-01 11:10
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A visitor looks at a digital product equipped with SenseTime's human pose estimation at a high-tech exhibition in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese facial recognition startup SenseTime announced on Thursday that it has raised $620 million in its Series C plus round of fundraising, which will accelerate its expansion overseas.

The funding, led by investment firms such as Fidelity International, Hopu Capital, Silver Lake and Tiger Global, valued the four-year-old company at more than $4.5 billion. To date, the startup has received financing totaling more than $1.6 billion.

Qualcomm Ventures also participated in this round of financing.

The move came shortly after SenseTime announced in April that it had acquired $600 million in its Series C round of fundraising led by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Xu Li, co-founder and chief executive officer of SenseTime, said earlier that the company will step up its push to expand its presence overseas this year.

"The funding will help us widen the scope for more industrial application of AI, thus increasing the value of SenseTime's global ecosystem," Xu added.

The company already has offices in Singapore and Japan. In December, Sense-Time announced that it is developing self-driving solutions in partnership with Japanese carmaker Honda. Founded in 2014, Sense-Time is known as one of China's top facial recognition startups. Having achieved profitability in 2017, the company said it has rapidly deployed its computer vision and other AI technologies in smart cities, smartphones, internet entertainment, automobiles, finance, retail, and other industries.

It boasts more than 700 strategic partners and customers including Alibaba, Suning, China Mobile, UnionPay, Wanda, Huawei and Xiaomi Corp.

Shen Meng, director of boutique investment bank Chanson & Co, said such a tight-scheduled fundraising process highlighted that SenseTime is well-recognized by investors and it is determined to accelerate steps to commercialize its AI technology in diverse sectors.

"Also, the input of more foreign investors in the Series C plus fundraising signals an aggressive overseas expansion push in the coming months," Shen said.

Earlier this year, the company also launched the SenseDrive driver monitoring system and SenseAR, China's first and only locally developed augmented reality platform, to promote the application of AI in more industries.

For the past three consecutive years, SenseTime has maintained year-on-year growth of 400 percent, according to the company. This year up until May, its business contract revenue has increased by more than tenfold so far.

He Qian, an AI expert at the Chinese Academy of Information and Communications Technology, says that facial recognition technology is jumping out of laboratories into commercial applications at a faster rate than most had expected.

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