After months of infighting, Chinese self-driving vehicle company Roadstar.ai is reportedly facing possible dissolution at the request of its investors, the latest in a series of blows following accusations of corruption and fraud among its co-founders.
According to Chinese media organization QbitAI, the Silicon Valley and Shenzhen-based self-driving startup is currently adopting resolutions on liquidation after major shareholders began procedures to dissolve the company. The company’s RMB 600 million (around $90 million) funds have been frozen, and CEO Tong Xianqiao has received a notice of arbitration, TMTPost reported (in Chinese), citing Tong.
A spokesperson from Chinese venture capital firm Yunqi Partners, one of its main investors, told TechNode on Monday that Yunqi’s investment team is dealing with the matter, and that there was nothing to announce (our translation). Meanwhile a voice recording reached when dialing the registered telephone number for Roadstar.ai listed on Chinese business research platform Tianyancha stated that the account was “overdue” and unavailable as of Monday.
This latest development comes after a testy public dispute broke out among its management team in late January, when CEO Tong Xianqiao and CTO Heng Ling accused chief scientist Zhou Guang of accepting kickbacks during a round of fundraising and using fraudulent data in a government regulatory report. The company announced via WeChat on Jan. 21 that it has since fired Zhou for his actions.
However, Zhou, who said that he had the support from major investors, denied the accusations to local media in his WeChat on the same day, adding that a media briefing would be held immediately to “clarify the facts.” Zhou has not released any public statements since that post.
This is not the first case of misdoings in the Chinese autonomous vehicle sector in the past year. In July, Pan Sining, co-founder of Guangzhou-based Jingchi.ai, accused the company CFO and others of forging signatures and illegally removing him from his executive director and statutory representative roles. In February, former Baidu executive and Jingchi CEO left his position following a RMB 50 million lawsuit filed by Baidu over claims of technology theft.
Tong, Heng, and Zhou founded Roadstar.ai in May 2017 after working together at Baidu’s US research affiliate for a year. Like Google’s self-driving car division, Waymo, the Baidu affiliate worked on developing advanced L4 autonomous driving vehicles, which pilot themselves without a human driver under certain conditions.
A year later, Roadstar.ai announced an $128 million round of funding from Chinese investors including Wu Capital and state-backed Shenzhen Capital Group, which it said was the largest financing round ever secured in the Chinese self-driving sector.