China VC Weekly: Convenience Stores, AI and Alibaba’s New Fund

In this week’s VC news: China’s largest cashierless convenience store chain Bianlifeng and Beijing-based education firm Jianzhi Education Technology Group prepare for US listings, Alibaba Group launches a new Greater Bay Area-focused fund to support startups from Series B round and up, while one of the world’s largest privately-owned AI firms, SenseTime, closes another multi-billion dollar investment round led by Alibaba Group and Singapore’s state investment firm.

Automated convenience store Bianlifeng preparing for IPO

Chinese automated convenience store startup Bianlifeng is looking to go public in the US with an initial public offering (IPO) that could raise roughly $500 million. According to a Bloomberg report, the Beijing-based company has filed for the IPO confidentially, citing people close to the matter. Bianlifeng is working with advisors to prepare for the move which could happen later this year, sources said, and has named former Goldman Sachs investment banker Deborah Wei as its CFO. Bloomberg notes that the company operates in a “competitive and cash-burning sector” that has attracted a lot of investor attention, but has also been hit fairly hard by the effects of COVID-19.

About Bianlifeng

Bianlifeng operates a chain of cashierless stores with unmanned shelves in more than 20 Chinese cities, including Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Customers can make purchases at these stores by scanning the products’ QR codes.

Beijing-based education company Jianzhi plans to list in the US and raise $50 million

Jianzhi Education Technology Group, a Chinese online learning platform and educational content producer, filed on Tuesday with the SEC to raise up to $50 million. Jianzhi Education started its operations by providing educational content products and IT services to higher education institutions, and has since become a leading provider of digital educational content in China. The company plans to list on either the NYSE or the Nasdaq, and it has not yet selected a symbol (RC ticker: JETG.RC). Jianzhi Education Technology Group filed confidentially on March 26, 2021. AMTD Global Markets and Loop Capital Markets are the joint bookrunners for the deal. No pricing terms were disclosed.

About Jianzhi Education Technology Group

The Beijing-based Jianzhi Education Technology Group was founded in 2011 and booked $68 million in revenue for the 12 months ended March 31, 2021. The company claims that it was the seventh-largest digital content provider for higher education and the largest online career training services provider for higher education institutions in China in 2020.

SEE ALSO: Jianzhi Education Files IPO in the United States after Being Rejected at Home

Alibaba Group announces a new Greater Bay Area Fund

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (9988.HK) will launch a fund for startups in China’s Greater Bay Area, the company announced on Tuesday via its Alibaba Entrepreneur Fund. The fund will reach a target size of HK$2 billion ($258 million) and is expected to close in the second half of 2022, the company added. Cindy Chow, executive director of the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, said the new enterprise will start engaging with startups in their Series B or later. Eligible firms will be either Hong Kong startups planning to expand into the Greater Bay Area or native to the region. “There is no limit in terms of ticket size,” Chow said at a news conference. “We are looking at businesses that are innovative and disruptive … particularly in the sectors of sustainability, deep tech, health tech, artificial intelligence and industry 4.0-related projects.” Upon investment, their portfolio companies can gain access to the extensive Alibaba ecosystem, which will help startups attract talent and build connections in new markets, she added.

About Alibaba Group

Alibaba Group Holding Limited, also known as Alibaba Group and, is a Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet services and technology.

One of the world’s largest AI startups raises $620 million

SenseTime Group Ltd. has raised $620 million to reach a valuation of more than $4.5 billion, just months after scoring a similar amount from investors led by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Singapore’s state investment firm. Fidelity International and Silver Lake Partners were among the investors in the latest financing round, bringing the total amount raised by the three-year-old image recognition startup in the past six months to more than $1.2 billion and tripling its valuation in under a year. Tiger Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and Hopu Capital also participated. The fresh capital will reportedly go toward research and talent acquisition, SenseTime said in a statement Thursday. Aside from Alibaba, it also counts Temasek Holdings Pte and retailer Co. as investors. It’s the largest, according to CB Insights, in a slew of private AI firms.

About SenseTime

SenseTime specializes in systems that analyze faces and images on an enormous scale and works with policing bodies across China. The startup said it experienced 400% growth in each of the past three years as it encompassed more industries. Business contract revenue is up more than 10-fold so far this year, according to its statement.