19/1/2018 – Chinese robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) startup Rokid has managed to secure a US$100 million new funding round led by Singapore’s state investor Temasek Holdings.
This development was revealed by Rokid through its Wechat official account, and the round was also participated by Credit Suisse Group, CDIB Capital International, and existing investor IDG Capital.
Founder and Chief Executive officer Mingming Zhu explained the reason behind raising a Series B extension round instead of a Series C round is because the company’s research stages in proprietary natural language processing, image processing, face recognition, and robotics are still in its early stages.
With this latest proceeding, Rokid plans to invest in research and development through gathering more resources and recruitments.
Founded in July 2014, Rokid is set up by Mingming Zhu, the former head of Alibaba’s advanced technology research unit M-Team, and Eric Wong, who formerly served as a consultant and operating partner at CITIC Capital Partners, Ltd and an executive director and CFO at Hong Kong-listed Kingsoft Corporation.
At present, Rokid’s product lineup includes a water drop-shaped family service robot Rokid Allien and a smart speaker Rokid Pebble, which are currently sold in China.
During CES 2018, the startup has also launched an augmented reality glass known as Rokid Glass, as well as an open-source platform called the Rokid Full Stack Open Platform.
Created in partnership with Alibaba, the platform gives third-party hardware developers who use Rokid’s voice assistant access to free resources, including software blueprints and content for IoT devices.
According to data compiled by Crunchbase, the Hangzhou firm has so far raised an aggregate equity funding in excess of US$150 million.
The startup’s last Series B round was in October 2016 where it secured a US$65 million. Among the company’s backers are IDG Capital Partners, Walden International, and Mfund, to name a few.
For Temasek, this latest investment reflects a renewed focus on artificial intelligence (AI) as a key area of investment. Temasek is positioning its portfolio – which reports is valued at S$275 billion (about US$207.9 billion) as at 31st March 2017 – towards emerging trends with strong growth potential.
The investment firm is particularly interested in seeking enterprises with a strong home base that have a sustainable business model, with the potential to be regional or global champions in the technology space.
Examples of such firms in Temasek’s portfolio are vegetable seed technology and breeding company VoloAgri Group, and Impossible Foods, which develops plant-based meat and dairy products.
An estimated 25 percent of Temasek’s portfolio are Chinese startups. The investment comes at a time when Chinese venture capital investments into the AI sector have seen firms such as Face++ and Ubetch which has raised financing rounds in excess of US$400 million.