Neolix, a startup developing autonomous vehicles (AV) for delivery services, said on Wednesday it has raised “hundreds of millions of RMB” from Softbank Ventures Asia, an early-stage investment arm of the Japanese tech giant, among others. Hundreds of millions of RMB means the total funding amount is between about $15 million and $154 million.
Why it matters: The funding marks the latest bet by Softbank on Chinese startups as the Japanese tech giant seeks to dominate the future of artificial intelligence.
Details: Softbank Ventures Asia and CICC Capital, the private equity unit of Chinese investment banking firm CICC, led a Series B investment round in Neolix that closed earlier this year, a spokesperson of the Beijing-based startup said on Wednesday.
- Existing investors and venture capital firms Yunqi Partners and Glory Ventures also joined the round.
- Neolix did not disclose the valuation at which the funds were raised.
- Neolix planned to use the funds mainly to expand its delivery service, while accelerating its steps into overseas markets, according to a Wednesday announcement (in Chinese).
- The three-year-old company added that it has deployed a fleet of nearly 1,000 robots in around 30 domestic cities, delivering over 1 million orders to around 300,000 users for retailers and restaurants such as KFC and Pizza Hut in China since mid-2020.
Context: Softbank has been a leading funder of ambitious Chinese companies for decades, but amid a wide-ranging crackdown on tech observers have asked if it is repositioning.
- Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son last week said only 11% of its Vision Fund investment has been directed into China since April. The company later told Chinese media that Son’s comments were misinterpreted, insisting that its commitment to China remains unchanged and that it continues to invest in the Chinese market.
- Softbank’s Vision Fund in February 2019 led a $940 million Series B of Nuro, a California-based self-driving grocery delivery service, TechCrunch reported.
- Neolix raised RMB 200 million in a Series A+ financing led by Chinese electric vehicle maker Li Auto in March 2020.