China’s AISpeech closes $58m in Series E round led by CTC Capital

An Apple Homepod. Photo by Howard Bouchevereau on unsplash

Chinese voice recognition technology developer AISpeech has closed 410 million yuan ($58 million) in a Series E round of financing led by Shanghai-based dual-currency fund CTC Capital.

Beijing-based BAIC Capital, an investment platform of Chinese state-owned automaker BAIC Group, and CITIC Securities’ private equity unit Goldstone Investment participated in the investment, according to a statement on Tuesday.

The startup is reloading ammunition to compete with homegrown counterparts in China’s AI-enabled voice recognition market, which is projected to reach $1.86 billion by 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.3 per cent between 2018 and 2023, according to IDC MarketScape.

Besides AISpeech, other prominent players in the market include Beijing-based speech recognition firm Unisound, Google-backed Mobvoi, which was reportedly raising $100 million ahead of an initial public offering (IPO) in China in March 2019, and iFlytek, a partially state-owned company that is currently dominant in the sector.

AISpeech, founded in 2007 by two University of Cambridge graduates, primarily develops natural language interaction technologies like speech recognition, tone analysis, dialogue management, speech synthesis, and natural language processing (NLP) for both Chinese and English languages.

The firm offers solutions and products such as a human-machine interaction system and an AI chip named “TH1520,” which serves clients that develop smart home appliances, connected vehicles, and intelligent wearable devices.

Some of its customers include Intel, Chinese technology giant Huawei, home appliance manufacturer Midea Group, smartphone maker Xiaomi, Apple supplier Foxconn, electric vehicle brand Xpeng Motors, as well as state-owned automotive firm SAIC Motor and BAIC Group.

The Suzhou-based company, which claims a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 300 per cent in the recent three years, will further increase investment into the R&D to accelerate technological innovation, as well as enhance core products and capabilities.

The company plans to improve its AI strengths to power intelligent services and terminals like smartphones and IoT-based vehicles, which will help the firm expand applications into the financial, government affair and other industries.

AISpeech collected 500 million yuan ($71 million) in a Series D round jointly led by Chinese investment firm Oriza Holdings, and Shanghai-based China Minsheng Investment Group in June 2018. Government-led Shenzhen Capital Group, Foxconn, and Taiwanese fabless semiconductor firm MediaTek participated in the previous round.

The company also completed a Series C round at nearly 200 million yuan ($28 million) in January 2016. Investors of the round were not disclosed.

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.