Chinese AI chip designer Horizon targets over $700m Series C, raises $150m

Artificial intelligence. Photo: unsplash

Horizon Robotics announced on Tuesday its plan to raise over $700 million in a Series C round, as the artificial intelligence (AI) chip designer joins a string of domestic peers to tap investors despite the Trump administration’s heightened crackdown on China Tech.

The Beijing-based startup, which was valued at $3 billion in its previous round of fundraising in 2019, already closed the first tranche of the Series C round at $150 million, Horizon announced in a WeChat post.

The first tranche, or a Series C1 round, was jointly led by 5Y Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm previously known as Morningside Venture Capital; Asia-focused private equity firm Hillhouse Capital’s VC unit GL Ventures; and China-focused Capital Today, an investor in e-commerce giant JD.com and food delivery platform Meituan.

Hong Kong-listed securities broker Guotai Junan International, and KTB also participated in the Series C1 round.

The firm did not immediately respond to DealStreetAsia’s queries about its pre-money valuation and timeframe for the new round of fundraising.

Even as a wider range of strategic investors and international institutions are expected to join in the investment, Horizon plans to use the proceeds to accelerate its R&D and the commercialisation of in-cabin AI chip products and intelligent driving solutions.

Unfazed by US, investors stand behind China AI

Horizon, which offers AI-based chips used in intelligent vehicles, surveillance cameras, and other smart devices, is ramping up efforts to raise hundreds of millions of US dollars amid worsening tensions between the US and China around issues ranging from trade, technology, and the pandemic, to listing rules.

Last week, the US Commerce Department added Chinese top chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) and drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology, as well as over 60 other Chinese firms to a trade blacklist that denies their access to US technology from software to circuitry.

These newly-banned companies joined the likes of Huawei Technologies, and a handful of Chinese AI majors, such as SenseTime, Megvii, CloudWalk Technology, and Intellifusion who had been blacklisted by the US earlier for their alleged complicity in human rights violations against Muslim minority groups in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region.

While Horizon has been spared from the so-called “Entity List,” at least for now, investors seem to be unfazed by Washington’s rising hostility against China tech. An array of Chinese AI companies has managed to close big-ticket investments this year.

Big data and AI unicorn MiningLamp Technology announced a few days earlier the completion of $200 million in a Series E+ round led by Russia-China Investment Fund (RCIF). The Beijing-based firm had just pocketed $300 million in a Series E round led by Tencent and Singapore’s state-owned investment firm Temasek in March.

In June, Biren Technology raked in a total of 1.1 billion yuan in its Series A round, jointly led by Qiming Venture Partners, IDG Capital, and Walden International. AI-based cloud computing firm Enflame Technology in May completed a 700-million-yuan Series B round led by investment firm SummitView Capital. Fourth Paradigm, an AI technology and service provider, also known as 4Paradigm, secured $230 million in a Series C+ round in April, at a valuation of $2 billion.

Even CloudWalk Technology and Intellifusion raked in 1.8 billion yuan and nearly 1 billion yuan, respectively, from investors including those with close ties to the Chinese government.

Horizon was founded in July 2015 by Yu Kai, who once led the autonomous driving unit of Chinese search engine giant Baidu.

At a valuation of $3 billion, Horizon had in February 2019 secured $600 million in a Series B round led by South Korean conglomerate SK China, memory chip manufacturer SK Hynix, and several Chinese carmaker-backed venture capital funds.

In October 2017, the firm had raised about $100 million in a Series A+ round from investors including Intel Capital, the corporate VC arm of US-based Intel Corporation. Harvest Investments, Wu Capital, Linear Ventures, 5Y Capital, and Hillhouse Capital participated in the deal.

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.

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.