HONG KONG -- Black Sesame Technologies, a Chinese developer of artificial intelligence-based self-driving computing chips, says it is close to a valuation of nearly $2 billion after raising "hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars" from investors, including Xiaomi's industry investment fund.
Shanghai-based Black Sesame raked in the new capital through a strategic investment and two Series C tranches of capital injection, the firm announced on Wednesday.
Hubei Xiaomi Yangtze River Industry Fund led the transactions with participation from Wingtech Technology, which assembles smartphones for top Android brands, including Xiaomi, as the biggest such business in China. FulScience, a manufacturer of intelligent vehicles jointly established by Chinese auto companies FAW Group, Fawer Automotive Parts and Huizhou Desay SV Automotive, poured in money as a strategic investor.
These transactions represent Xiaomi's earliest bets on an automotive supplier after the Chinese smartphone giant announced in late March its plan of entering the automotive sector with a new smart electric vehicle business.
It later completed the official business registration of the wholly owned subsidiary in September, targeting to make an initial investment of 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in the new venture and a total investment size of $10 billion over the next 10 years.
In the Black Sesame deal, investing alongside Xiaomi were SummitView Capital, FutureX Capital, Oriza Hua, Lenovo Capital & Incubator Group, Sunic Capital, China Automotive Chip Industry Innovation Strategic Alliance and others. Black Sesame said it is in the process of raising a Series C+ round.
Founded in 2016, Black Sesame primarily offers image processing, perception algorithm and system-on-chip design to enable autonomous driving. Having released two series of smart-driving AI chips to date, the startup delivers customized Level 2 and Level 3 advanced driver-assistance systems and self-driving solutions to auto companies like Robert Bosch, SAIC Motor and BYD.
Upon the completion of the new transactions, Black Sesame will leverage the investors' automotive industry resources and capital support to further advance product R&D and commercialization, upgrade technologies, consolidate technical barriers and actively build its self-driving ecosystem.
The new financing followed the completion of its Series B round at nearly $100 million in April 2019. SL Capital, a semiconductor-focused fund affiliated with China's Legend Capital, led the deal. Other investors include SAIC Motor, SK China, China Merchants Venture, Delta Capital and FengHe Fund Management.
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