Tencent-backed cloud artificial intelligence-training platform Enflame Technology has raised RMB 700 million ($98.6 million) in Series B funding, the company said on Thursday.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has made raising money more difficult for cash-strapped startups. In the first quarter, venture capital investments in China dropped by a third compared with the same period a year ago, according to data from Itjuzi.

  • Total investment fell to RMB 119.1 billion in Q1 from RMB 173.6 billion last year.
  • Nevertheless, the development of artificial intelligence is a priority for China, with the government setting ambitious goals to become a forerunner in the technology by 2030.

Details: Enflame Technology has closed its RMB 700 million Series B, with Beijing-based private equity firm Summitview Capital leading the round.

  • Government-backed Shanghai Innovital Capital, Red Dot Capital, Redpoint Ventures China, Shanghai-based Delta Capital, and social media and gaming giant Tencent, among others, also participated in the round.
  • The proceeds of the round will be used to scale Enflame’s business, expand its tech support team, fund research and development, and mass produce its products, the company said.
  • Enflame provides products for training cloud-based artificial intelligence platforms, including training and inference chips.
  • In December, the company launched an AI accelerator for data centers dubbed Cloudblazer T10. The company said the product provides energy-efficient data processing capabilities for cloud-based AI training platforms.

Context: Enflame is not the only company aiming to improve data center performance. In September, e-commerce giant Alibaba unveiled a self-developed AI chip that was being used to optimize product search and automatic translations on the company’s e-commerce sites.

  • Despite being seen as an area in which China can take the lead globally, the country currently lags the US in its development of AI chips and is vulnerable to political actions by US lawmakers, including trade restrictions.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.