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Chinese Startups Hauled In Half of 2017 Global AI Funding

Over US$12.5 billion in funding flowed into AI startups in 2017, with Chinese startups receiving 48 percent of that, according to the new CB Insights report The State of Artificial Intelligence. China overtook the US (38 percent) for the first time, as its AI startups wowed the world with a yearlong series of huge funding rounds.

Much of the money went to computer vision (CV) technologies, with 41 disclosed deals and US$1.6 billion in disclosed funding. Face++ topped the heap when its Series C round attracted a record-setting US$460 million, while other CV companies like SenseTime (US$410 million) and CloudWalk (US$375 million) also did extremely well. Such companies brought their machine learning technologies to China’s US$15 billion security camera market or the rapidly growing facial recognition payment market.

CV technology also captured attention from non-CV companies such as Chinese speech and voice technology giant iFlytek, which has won multiple object detection and self-driving competitions. In November iFlytek released a medical assistant robot for hospitals to improve diagnosis accuracy.

Along with the computer vision startups, Chinese computer chip companies also had a great 2017. Cambricon and Horizon — which develop machine learning processors to power AI applications on smart devices, self-driving vehicles, and smart cities — raised US$100 million each. Cambricon’s AI computation-boosting neural processing unit is inside Huawei’s new flagship smartphone Mate 10.

Chinese startups are also becoming increasingly attractive to US investors. CB Insights reported 20 US-backed equity deals with Chinese startups last year, double the 2016 total. As more investors pump more money into innovative Chinese AI startups, those startups are bound to bring even more innovations in 2018.

Journalist: Tony Peng| Editor: Michael Sarazen

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