The world’s largest tech fund Softbank Vision Fund is seeking to invest close to US$1 billion in SenseTime, the most valuable artificial intelligence startup on the planet, Bloomberg reported on Friday citing people familiar with the matter.
Details of the deal are yet to be finalized and could still change, according to the Bloomberg report. Both SenseTime and SoftBank declined to comment when asked by Bloomberg and Reuters.
China’s SenseTime Group has already raised two rounds this year, raking in more than US$1.2 billion. In end-May this year, it closed a US$620 million funding round led by a group of four investors including Fidelity International and Silver Lake. Just a month earlier in April, it raised US$600 million led by Alibaba.
The potential investment by Softbank Group’s Softbank Vision Fund would see SenseTime capitulated past its US$4.5 billion valuation in end-May this year.
The Beijing-based company was founded in 2014 in Hong Kong. With its expertise in facial recognition technology, it has seen it being synonymous with China’s mass surveillance system. It is a global leader in the facial and image recognition technology, counting US semiconductor firm Qualcomm, Japanese carmaker Honda and China’s telecoms giant China Mobile among its over 400 clients.
SenseTime has been profitable since 2017 and its average revenue has been growing by 400% for the past three years, its company CEO Xu Li told 36Kr earlier in May this year. 36Kr is the parent of KrASIA.
The AI company also fits into Softbank founder Masayoshi Son’s vision of a future where robots are smarter than human beings by the turn of this century. Its US$100 billion Softbank Vision Fund, launched in late 2017, focuses on artificial intelligence, robots and autonomous vehicles among other things.
The investment would probably help SenseTime’s development into self-driving cars and augmented reality, according to an earlier interview with 36Kr. The company is also reportedly developing a facial and image recognition system code-named Viper that would be able to process thousands of live feeds.
Editor: Ben Jiang