Smartwatch And AI Startup Mobvoi Close To $1B Valuation With Google’s Help


Mobvoi, a China-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup, has almost secured funding to value the company at upwards of $1 billion before an initial public offering, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The company, which was started by former Google employees and is backed by the company, wants to raise $100 million. Mobvoi was Google’s first direct China investment following the exit of its search engine from the country in 2010.

It’s also backed by Sequoia and Zhenfund, and it’s one of a slew of companies trying to attract market share away from Apple and other tech giants. The company offers voice-search services, smart speakers and watches, among other things.

Mobvoi was previously valued at $300 million in a financing round that Google led in 2015. The startup has a partnership with Google through its Voice Assistant and Wear operating system. The company has about 800 workers, and it also has a partnership with Volkswagen developing AI for automobiles.

Company Co-Founder Zhifei Li said in 2017 that the company was targeting an IPO in two years. The company will use the money for expansion and new products, from dashboard platforms to car mirrors with smart technology. It’s targeting China’s new tech board for the IPO.

China announced its plans to launch the tech board in January.

Reuters, citing the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said the technology innovation board would list companies in the tech and emerging sectors with a focus on high-tech manufacturing equipment, new energy, biotech, Big Data and cloud computing.

“This will enable the capital markets to support the development of China’s core technologies and innovative capabilities,” the regulator said in a statement posted on its website. “It will also help Shanghai become an international financial center, as well as a hub for technology innovation.”

Reuters noted that in November, President Xi Jinping announced the plans for the board, saying it was aimed at fighting back against U.S. curbs on Chinese tech companies and developments. It also comes as the U.S. and China are embroiled in a trade war.