Furthering the battle for artificial intelligence (AI) between firms in China and the U.S., China’s SenseTime has raised $600 million in Series C funding. With the round, the company is now reportedly valued at more than $4.5 billion, TechCrunch reported.
The company, which raised $410 million in a Series B round last July, is intending to use the funds to widen its international operations as well as “widen the scope for more industrial application of AI,” according to SenseTime CEO Li Xu. Alibaba led SenseTime’s Series C round and is reportedly the company’s biggest investor.
“SenseTime is doing pioneering work in artificial intelligence,” Joe Tsai, Alibaba Group’s executive vice chairman, said in a statement. “We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing. Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI, and we are committed to further investment.”
SenseTime is involved in a range of fields, from facial and image recognition to autonomous driving. Through its work with Suning, SenseTime helped create the Store of Future, which uses facial recognition for checkout-free shopping.
The news comes as Alibaba is reportedly preparing to invest in ride-hailing platform Grab. The size of the potential investment and Grab’s future valuation with such a deal was not clear as of last week, TechCrunch reported. A spokesperson for Alibaba told the newswire the company “doesn’t confirm on market rumors.” Grab also declined to comment on TechCrunch’s story.
Alibaba is in the process of acquiring food delivery startup Ele.me for $9.5 billion. According to Fortune, the deal is part of the eCommerce company’s efforts to expand into China’s local delivery market, which has grown at a rapid pace as more people turn to their smartphones to order food, schedule appointments and hire help. As part of the deal, Ele.me Founder Zhang Xuhao will become chairman of the company, and the VP of Alibaba Group, Wang Lei, will become chief executive officer of Ele.me.