Largest private financing round ever by AI face recognition start-up
SenseTime, the AI face recognition technology startup from Beijing, just closed its Series B financing round with a total investment of 410 billion USD. It announced this on their weibo channel. This funding round is said to be the largest private financing round ever by an AI start-up, globally.
SenseTime is likely going to use a substantial portion of this investment to grow its ‘deep learning’ R&D team. They have hired and will continue to hire scientists with PhD degrees from world’s top universities, such as MIT, Stanford University, Tsinghua University, The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and racking in staffs from companies such as Google, Microsoft, Lenovo, and Baidu.
According to SenseTime, its face recognition algorithms have an error rate below 0.001%, when targeting a a recognition rate of 94% at millisecond speed. Such technology is very useful in security related applications.
The company goes beyond recognition and for instance, also accurately estimates 40 face attributes, such as age, race, expression, facial decoration, beard style etc. Such attributes could for instance be applied to
advertisement or customers analysis.
To boost further advancement on AI products, SenseTime cooperates mainly with domestic (Chinese) companies such as ChinaMobile, UnionPay, Huawei, NetPosa, Xiaomi, Sina Weibo, Iflytek, and JD.com. The only foreign partner at the moment is NVIDIA.
After spending several paragraphs on technology, it is important to realise that technology is not the only key factor to success. In an earlier interview the founder and CEO Li Xu said he hasn’t had the time to write any code recently. Setting up the company, figuring out industry pain points, finding product-market fit, took three years. He had to transfer from an engineer to a CEO.