Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba Group, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is to acquire Israel-based personalized QR code startup Visualead Ltd. in a deal estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
Citing a person familiar with the matter, Calcalist reported that the Alibaba Group and Visualead had been in discussions regarding the acquisition of Visualead for some time. Alibaba Group is an existing investor in Visualead.
The company was founded in 2012 in Herzliya, nine miles north of Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital. The software enterprise is engaged in the research, development and enablement of IOT technologies using Visual QR Code.
Its software generates personalized QR codes which users can scan with their smartphones and differ from the typical black-and-white codes by incorporating colourful designs. For e-commerce operators, QR codes serve as optical labels that contain product information, as well as allowing for product tracking and protection against counterfeiting.
According to data compiled by Crunchbase, it has raised $7.35 million across three rounds of funding, while Calcalist quotes a figure of $10 million. Its last financing round being a $5 million Series B investment that was led by Alibaba Group. Other investors in Visualead are Tel Aviv-based Kaedan Capital Ltd. and Herzliya-based Entrée Capital.
If completed, the acquisitive transaction would be Alibaba’s first in Israel. Since 2015, the Chinese e-commerce major has been establishing a presence in Israel. In 2015, it emerged as a limited partner (LP) for Jerusalem Venture Partners.
Earlier this year in October, it announced plans to establish a laboratory in Tel Aviv – one of seven worldwide – as part of a $15 billion global research and development push over the next three years.
These labs are located in Beijing, Hangzhou, Singapore, Moscow, Bellevue (in the Seattle area), and San Mateo (in Silicon Valley), these labs will concentrate on research in areas such as data intelligence, natural-language processing, quantum computing, and machine learning.
This latest acquisition is part of a strategy by Alibaba to evolve beyond its e-commerce roots; the company has invested heavily in cloud computing, with 14 data centres across China, Silicon Valley, Europe, and Southeast Asia that serve clients who use Alibaba Cloud. In China, it is also competing against the likes of Tencent Holdings and Baidu, who are intensely focused on developing their competitive advantage through the use of AI.