China: Sinovation Ventures bags $50m from Spain’s BBVA for $500m AI fund

Sinovation Ventures founder Kai Fu Lee. Photo: Bloomberg.

Sinovation Ventures, a Chinese VC firm co-founded by former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee, has secured an investment of $50 million from Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A. (BBVA) for its new $500-million fund, per an announcement on Tuesday.

Sinovation Fund IV would make early-stage investments in companies in areas such as online consumption, B2B and education, with a special emphasis on artificial intelligence, BBVA said in a statement.

The investment will allow BBVA to understand and, potentially, co-invest in Chinese technological startups specialized in AI, and help it increase its presence in the world’s fastest-growing technology market, it added.

Carlos Torres Vila, CEO of BBVA, said, “By investing in Sinovation Fund IV, we made sure to learn and approach some of the most promising artificial intelligence solutions in the world. And we can do it through a high performance investment platform with a solid profitability profile.”

Sinovation Ventures started operations in 2009 and currently has six funds, with total assets under management of more than $1.7 billion. Its investments are mainly focused on China. It claims to have backed six unicorns (startups worth more than $1 billion), including Meitu, Mobike, VIPKid and Face ++.

China’s government has said it wants to make the country the world leader in AI by 2030, by boosting the value of the sector to 1 trillion yuan ($147.7 billion).

With more than 1 billion inhabitants connected through mobile devices, which grow 12 per cent year-on-year each year, the country is a leader in the implementation of mobile payment technologies, BBVA said.

Many other Chinese companies are investing heavily to promote the development of artificial intelligence solutions. Recently, SenseTime raised $600 million in a round of funding led by e-commerce giant Alibaba, breaking the record for the largest venture capital investment in the AI industry.

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.