Silicon Dragon Digest: AI Heat, Jack Ma Buys Insurance, Softbank Dazzles

DEALS
An AI startup in the Bay Area focused on helping job seekers and employers make a perfect match has been formed by two ex-Googlers with $2.4 million in funding from a who’s who of investors including Bob Xu from ZhenFund. The startup, named Leap.ai by co-founders Richard Liu and Yunkai Zhou, is based on their experience in hiring some 800 professionals collectively while at Google. Leap.ai is concentrating on tech jobs among unicorn-style companies and is helping Chinese companies Baidu, Didi and Ant Financial recruit talent in Silicon Valley. CEO Liu will be chatting with one of his venture investors, Xuhui Shao of Tsingyuan Ventures, at Silicon Dragon Valley 2017, October 2.

Trucking in China seems to be where the venture dollars are flowing lately.  Huochebang, a China-based truck logistics startup, has raised $56 million in “Series B-3” funding led by All-Stars Investment. The six-year company has raised a total $327 million, including a $156 million round involving Baidu that closed just three months ago.  Meanwhile, TuSimple, a China-based autonomous truck technology startup, bagged $20 million in funding from investors including Nvidia and SinaTC

A Baidu spinout, Chinese K-12 online education company Zuoyebang, has snared $150 million in Series C funding led by H Capitalwith Tiger Global ManagementSequoia CapitalLegend CapitalGGV Capital and Xianghe Capital.

Ankon Technologies, a China-based developer of an endoscopy diagnosis testing system, has raised $100 million in new VC funding from SBCVC, Dazhong Investment, Youshi Capital and Tongsheng Capital CMN

HiScene, a Chinese startup that’s developing hardware and software for augmented reality, has picked up roughly $14 million in Series B funding led by Shanghai Cableway Investment, with Sincere Capital, Vstar Capital and the Chinese smartphone and selfie app developer MeituCMN

YangTian, a Chinese developer of light industrial robotic arms, has snagged $7 million in “pre-A” funding from Lenovo Capital and the Incubator Group. GSR Ventures and Yinxinggu Capital joined in on the deal. CMN

Er Geng, a short video content producer located in Hangzhou, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Jack Ma’s private equity firm Yunfeng Capital along with Source Code CapitalCMN

Two Taiwanese startups that have been part of the push at Taiwan Startup Stadium have raised seed financing: GliaCloud, an AI-powered text to video generator, and Awoo, an SEO hacking service. Awoo pulled in $1 million from four angel investors while GliaCloud brought in $500,000 from Infinity Venture Partners plus several angel investors.

IPOs
nasdaq_logoZai Lab, a developer of drugs for the China market, has filed for a $115 million IPO, trading on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol ZLAB, with J.P. Morgan as the lead underwriter. Previous investors include Sequoia and KPCB.

Youon Bike becomes the first listed China bike-share company after raising approximately $87 million via an IPO in Shanghai. Shares surged 44% in their first day of trading August 17 for the Changzhou startup. Backers for the startup that competes with well-funded Ofo and MoBike include Ant Financial and Shenzhen Capital.

FUNDS
Andrew NgWho better than artificial intelligence guru Andrew Ng, formerly chief scientist at Baidu and Google Brain founder, to put the gears in motion to raise a $150 million fund focused on AI startups.

Shanghai-based Gobi Partners, an active investor in Southeast Asia startups, closed on $50 million for a new SEA fund of $200 million. Backers included Malaysia Venture Capital Management, the Korean home shopping company GS Shop, and the Indonesian investment firm CKM. Presto! Gobi then led a $27 million investment in Indonesian fashion e-commerce startup SaleStock.

Israeli VC firm Carmel Ventures is raising a fifth fund, shows an SEC filing that does not list a target. The firm closed its fourth fund with $194 million in 2014, notably including China LPs BaiduPing-An and Qihoo360SEC

Investment advisory firm RJ Capital Group and Shenzhen conglomerate Tempus Holdings have teamed up to form a $300 million VC fund focused on the China trend of upgraded travel, leisure and consumer e-commerce.

M&A
Jack MaJack Ma is hurtling into the insurance market as his Yunfeng Financial leads a $1.7 billion buyout of the Asian unit of MassMutual. Insurance is ripe for innovation.

Citing national security concerns, Cohu, a U.S. semiconductor-testing company, is mounting a quiet campaign to derail the planned $580 million sale of Xcerra, an American rival, to a Chinese state-backed group. WSJ

NOTEWORTHY
Alibaba Group and U.S.-China incubator InnoSpring have teamed up to launch an Alibaba Innovation Center in Jiading, a district nearby Shanghai focused on auto making.  This joint venture brings in resources from the Alibaba ecosystem, primarily its cloud computing service, and additional support from the Jiading government and TEEC (Tsinghua Entrepreneur & Executive Club). The goal is to attract startups to develop Jiading as a center of innovation for smart cars, intelligent manufacturing and robotics, and biomedical sciences.  This marks the 6th innovation center for InnoSpring, five of them in China, working toward a vibrant ecosystem for startups and improved platform for innovation, said Dr. Xiao Wang, general manager, InnoSpring Silicon Valley, who was in Shanghai to launch a Demo Day for startups to pitch investors.


While American technology companies have struggled in China, the reverse is also true. WeChat dominates in China but relatively few Americans have heard of the messaging app. MIT.  But more will soon. Caesars has launched WeChat Pay for Chinese visitors, becoming the first Strip operator to do so LV Review

While film importers chase China’s box office, Internet starlets (‘Wanghongs’) are taking in $8.7 billion in sales in 2016, $1.5 billion more than China’s total box office.

Here’s a full translation of China’s State Council notice about its development plans for next generation artificial intelligence. New America

Chinese drone maker DJI is tightening its data security after the U.S. Army ordered its members to stop using DJI drones due to potential cyber vulnerabilities

Some 37 rental car-sharing companies in China operate 6,000 electric vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and predictions are for 30,000 vehicles in 50 cities by yearend 2017. No wonder China has tightened rules governing its booming car-sharing market. FT

Baidu has cleverly struck a deal for search and ads to funnel users looking for products to online retailer JD.com. The deal bypasses JD rival Alibaba, an indirect competitor to Baidu’s search business. Bloomberg

SoftBank, HardCash – overview of the impact that dealmaker Masayoshi Son is having on global tech investing with his $93 billion Vision Fund.  @beijingscribe

As Chinese firms expand, it’s a double-edge sword for their VC funds due to overfunding and valuation inflation: Wei Hopeman, managing partner, Arbor Ventures. DealstreetAsia

 

Silicon Dragon’s weekly digest is edited by Rebecca Fannin with contributions by Shuonan Chen.