HK Startup In AI Lures Alibaba, Payoneer Gets Boost From CBC

award SenseTimeAs Silicon Dragon reported back in early November, hot AI startup SenseTime Group was getting ready to raise a next round of funding before the end of this year. CEO Xu Li told me then that the amount could surpass its previous intake.

Now that appears to be coming true. Alibaba is reportedly eyeing an investment of $227 million in the Hong Kong-based startup that focuses on artificial intelligence research and has multiple advanced technologies for facial recognition, machine learning and smart city systems.  Alibaba seeks to become the largest investor in SenseTime, which started out in 2014 at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.

With the financing, SenseTime plans to open a R&D center in the U.S. An IPO is in the wings.

SenseTime had already entered the unicorn league when it raised $410 million in a Series B round this past July, giving it a total valuation of $1.5 billion. It’s backed by Qualcomm through a recent collaboration deal as well as  IDG, CDH, CICC and Chinese investment firm Sailiing Capital. SenseTime derives most of its revenues from China and counts corporate customers Huawei, China Mobile, Xiaomi, OPPO, Union Pay and Hainan Airlines.

The deal if it goes through with Alibaba reinforces a steady incline by Hong Kong tech startups as they enter a new era of respectability and scale up.

Call it prescient but Silicon Dragon presented its annual Founder of the Year Award just last month to Sensetime co-creator Dr. Xu. Check out the tech chat video between the SenseTime founder and his early investor Francis Leung of Luminary Capital.

DEALS
In other notable news, China Broadband Capital has led an investment in cross-border payments company Payoneer. The cross-border e-payments platform, based in New York, founded in 2005 and profitable, needs the additional financing to accelerate its Asian business and boost its local China operations, according to CEO Scott Galit.
This new Series E-1 funding in Payoneer by Edward Tian’s leading private equity firm follows last year’s $220+MM Series E investment round, which included Technology Crossover Ventures and W Capital.  Interestingly, Payoneer has investment from Chinese, US and Israeli venture firms.

Among early investors in Payoneer are Greylock Partners, NYCA Partners, PingAn Ventures, Susquehanna Growth Equity, TCV, Viola Ventures, and Wellington Management.

Poshmark, a large social marketplace for fashion, lured in $87.5 million in Series D funding led by Temasek. GGV Capital, which participated in the round, led Poshmark’s Series C1 financing in 2016.

Managing partner Hans Tung, a board member of Poshmark, commented that the company has the power to shake up the global e-commerce market, and noted that the California-based Poshmark reminds him of the firm’s portfolios in China.

FUNDS
China’s NIO Capital, founded by electric vehicle maker,  is eyeing a $500 million investment fund for auto investments. The future of China could be green.