Date
11 December 2017
Qualcomm has invested in several tech startups in China, including bike-sharing entity Mobike and AI firm SenseTime, through a dedicated venture fund. Photos: Reuters/Mobike/SenseTime
Qualcomm has invested in several tech startups in China, including bike-sharing entity Mobike and AI firm SenseTime, through a dedicated venture fund. Photos: Reuters/Mobike/SenseTime

Qualcomm invests in Mobike, SenseTime and other Chinese startups

US chipmaker Qualcomm has revealed that it has invested in nine Chinese technology startups via the firm’s US$150 million China Venture Fund, TechCrunch reports.

The investments made by the Venture Fund, which was announced in 2014, include firms involved in internet-of-things, big data and artificial intelligence, it said.

Most prominent of the nine is bike-sharing giant Mobike, which has over 100 million users in China and is making international moves.

Mobike has worked closely with Qualcomm over its international expansion, but this is the first time that an investment has been revealed, the report noted.

Another name with an existing pedigree in the list is the AI startup SenseTime, which has already been valued at around US$1.5 billion.

Both Qualcomm and SenseTime did not disclose the size of the investment.

But SenseTime announced that Qualcomm’s investment is part of its ongoing Series C funding round, reported to be US$500 million and to be closed later this year, which could be the world’s biggest ever funding round by an AI startup.

According to a SenseTime statement, Qualcomm has made a strategic investment in the three-year-old company.

The investment will help accelerate development of an “AI plus chip” as the “brains” of the next generation smart devices.

SenseTime had in July completed a US$410 million Series B round of funding from a group of nearly 20 investors.

The Chinese firm and Qualcomm had announced a strategic partnership last month to collaborate on AI, which will see SenseTime’s proprietary algorithms deployed in smart devices.

Apart from the two “unicorns” Mobike and SenseTime, the other Chinese startups on Qualcomm’s investment list are Creatcomm Technology, Kneron, Element Zone, Microduino, Magic AI, Beijing Agriculture Consultant and Smart Management, and Alo7.

In a statement, Quinn Li, vice president and global head of Qualcomm Ventures said: “This group of innovative companies focuses on AI, IoT and other areas. We strive to help these companies make their ideas and creativities a reality, by providing financial, technology and business support.”

“Qualcomm Ventures will continue to enable innovation among startups in the frontier tech areas, and help grow the entire industry,” the executive said.

According to the TechCrunch report, Qualcomm’s China venture business has close to 40 companies in total in the portfolio. 

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