China's Top AI Companies

China’s technological advancement continues to leapfrog many companies in other developed nations. The A.I startups, in particular, are raising more venture capital than companies in any other country.

As of Jan 1, 2019, there are at least 128 unicorns in China excluding the fallen one (like Ofo or Baidu Waimai) or those that have went IPO (iQiyi, XiaoMi, Many of the unicorns are in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou.

ZNFrontier has a front row view of this growth. Our team operates out of Shanghai and Beijing, and have been blessed to work with many VCs. Since our inception last year, we have tracked at least 1000 Chinese start-ups through their life cycles, from angel rounds to public listings. We have our ears to the ground and have recorded both the fads and innovation that VC put their money into.

We have seen first hand, the incredible success of entrepreneurs in their home ground, and also, the silent failures of those who venture abroad.

Among the most newsworthy trend from past years is the rise of artificial intelligence. AlphaGo, captures the minds of mathematicians and scientists, when it won the game against South Korean professional Go player, Lee Se-Dol. To many, it is the beginning of A.I moving forward.

Based on a report from Tsinghua University in 2018, Chinese A.I start-ups raised almost US$27.71 billion of investment via 369 VC deals. China also became the nation with the most number of AI patents assigned. Below shows the global distribution of AI patents assigned with China taking the lead from the US.

Distribution of AI patents Source: Tsinghua University

China’s Top AI unicorns

Below shows at least 14 AI unicorns with a combined valuation of US$40.5 billion with DJI taking the lead. Others that appears in the news includes SenseTime, Cambricon, Face++, and Yitu.

14 AI Unicorns Source: China Money Network

What to look for in 2019

As we move forward in 2019, we see strong momentum across all touch points within the VC and AI start-ups.

Among the biggest challenge in AI is the need for data to train the model. We believe AI startups that attempts to solve and reduce the need for massive data for AI will emerge within 3 years as the next unicorn.