SenseTime, a four-year-old Chinese startup, became the world’s largest artificial intelligence startup in April this year after scoring a $600 million round from Alibaba. The company’s funding frenzy continues two months later upon the reception of another $620 million round at a $4.5 billion valuation.
AI is being applied in a dizzying array of areas, but one of the most successful is face recognition. It is also where SenseTime first boomed by selling its AI-powered face recognition solutions to smartphone makers to improve their cameras, beautify photos for Chinese social media platforms, and to provide identity verification for security systems.
“SenseTime was first known to the public as a face recognition company, but we are aiming at something much bigger than that. Actually, our face recognition team only represents a small part of the company now. A great majority of the staff is dedicated to the construction of our deep learning platform,” said Xu Bing, co-founder and vice president of SenseTime, at TechCrunch Hangzhou.
“In our definition, SenseTime is a technology development platform. Just like in any other factories, we set up production lines to mass-produce our product, which is the technology, at a lower cost. It’s not only about face recognition. We have the capacity to generate the technologies that could recognize any visual or video contents, no matter it’s a cup, a car, or medical imaging,” Xu added.
Coming from a technological research background, Xu believes SesnseTime is very lucky that they are in a new era where the country is open to AI. From the macro level, China is moving fast in terms of business innovation. “Coupled with maturing technology and government support, our team believes the market is going to record a full boom in the near future,” he said.
That’s also the reason why we are open to more funding, even though we are still a young company because more funding will help the company to move even faster and to stay ahead of the industry. “We introduce funding from a certain venture capital not only for the money but also for creating synergy effects with these strategic investors,” he explained. Its investors include big names such as Alibaba, Qualcomm Ventures, and more.
With the new funding, the company plans to expand to more fields such as autonomous driving and augmented reality, covering the growing cost of AI talent and building infrastructure, according to Xu.
SenseTime turned profitable in 2017 and claims it has more than 700 clients and partners. For the past three years, the average revenue growth has been 400%, Xu Li, co-founder and CEO of SenseTime, said previously to Bloomberg.