China VC Weekly: AI, Automation and Largest Investment Round in China’s Edtech History
The past week saw exciting news surface regarding several players in China’s AI and automation space, with one of the most prominent AI unicorns 4Padadigm raising two hefty rounds and adding another $1 billion to its valuation. Autonomous Mobile Robot company ForwardX Robotics also raised a noticeable amount to ramp up its R&D efforts, while QCraft, a young self-driving venture, amassed eight figures from prominent investors, including IDG Capital and Vision+ Capital. However, the biggest winner of the week is Yuanfudao, a Tencent-backed education technology startup that raised $1 billion in the largest single investment round in the history of China’s edtech industry.
AI unicorn 4Padadigm raises $230 million in Series C and C+ funding at a $2 billion valuation
AI startup4Paradigm announced Thursday that it raised a total of $230 million at a valuation of roughly $2 billion in its latest Series C and C+ funding rounds led by new strategic investors Cisco, Lenovo and China CITIC Bank. The post-money valuation of 4Paradigm now approaches. The new funds will be used to improve its Al-based enterprise-level service ecosystem, ramp up research and development (R&D) investment and market expansion efforts.
Since its founding in 2014, 4Paradigm has successfully developed and deployed cutting-edge AI solutions such as “4Paradigm Sage EE”, a whole-process AI platform with capabilities such as data processing, application building and model research, and “4Paradigm Sage HyperCycle ML”, a decision-making tool which can be used in sales forecasting, intelligent banking and anti-money laundering.
Founded in 2014, 4Paradigm introduced a low threshold, end-to-end machine learning platform “Prophet” in 2016. “Prophet” enables enterprises to independently develop AI applications, optimize operational efficiency, improve the decision-making process, and promote AI upgrading. To date, 4Paradigm has completed over 2,000 AI application cases in areas including finance, medical care, government, energy, retail and media as well as six rounds of financing, backed by top VC firms and China’s Big Four banks.
AMR firm ForwardX Robotics completes a 100 million yuan Series B+ round
Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) company ForwardX Robotics completed a Series B+ round of financing worth more than 100 million yuan, led by Zhongbai Industry Investment Fund under China Merchants Capital. The company has raised a total of 200 million yuan since March 2019, including the latest Series B+ round. The new capital will be used for further R&D, supply chain build-up and commercialization.
According to ForwardX, the company is currently serving a number of Fortune 500 enterprises. It has seen an average increase of 200% to 300% in productivity metrics, such as units per hour and throughput, and a labor cost reduction of up to 51%.
Experienced in warehousing, 3PL (third-party logistics) and manufacturing facilities, ForwardX opened its U.S. headquarters in San Diego, California on March 24, joining the tech hub of Mission Valley where several other key players in robotics-related industries are based.
Yuanfudao bags the largest investment round in the history of China’s edtech sector
Tencent-backed online education platform Yuanfudao (Ape Tutoring) closed a $1 billion round of financing led by Hillhouse Capital and followed by Tencent, Boyu Capital and IDG Capital, valuing the company at $7.8 billion, and making it the highest valued unlisted edtech company. The $1 billion round is the largest amount raised in the history of the Chinese education sector.
The new round of financing will be used to ramp up Yuanfudao’s marketing and recruiting as the company hopes to expand market share in its online class lectures, while continuing to pull away from competitors with its newer offerings, including Zebra AI Class and Little Ape Oral Arithmetic.
The information was confirmed by Li Yong, founder and CEO of Yuanfudao, in an all-personnel email sent out in the early hours of March 31. Li also revealed in the internal letter that the number of users of Yuanfudao’s online classes has exceeded 1 million, while Zebra AI Course’s paying users have exceeded 500,000.
Founded in 2012 by former Netease employees, Yuanfudao offers various programs, including question database Yuantiku, question search Xiaoyuansouti, and English learning app Zebra AI. The company also currently operates 11 teaching and curriculum development centers across China.
Self-driving startup QCraft raises eight-figure seed round from IDG
Self-driving startup QCraft announced that it raised an eight-figure USD investment in a seed funding round led by IDG Capital, Vision+ Capital, and Tide Capital.
The company did not disclose purposes for which the newly raised funds will be used. QCraft is currently building a driver that can handle the most challenging driving situations in complex urban environments.
Established in Silicon Valley in 2019, the company is committed to creating L4 autonomous driving technology that adapts to complex city traffic environments. Less than five months after its establishment, it obtained the California Autonomous Driving Road Test License and began public road testing. The company has offices in Beijing, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Silicon Valley and other cities in the United States.