Chinese self-driving startup WeRide closes Series B round at $310m

A self-driving minibus jointly developed by Chinese autonomous vehicle startup WeRide and bus maker Yutong Group. Source: WeRide

Chinese autonomous vehicle startup WeRide announced on Thursday the completion of its Series B2 and B3 rounds of financing, less than one month after the firm raised $200 million in a Series B1 round in late December.

Guangzhou, China-based WeRide garnered a combined $310 million across the three tranches. Upon the completion of the Series B round, the startup has kickstarted the fundraising work for its Series C round, according to a statement.

Yutong Group, the parent firm of bus maker Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co Ltd, was the lead investor of the Series B round. Existing shareholders, such as Qiming Venture Partners, former Google China head Kai-Fu Lee’s Sinovation Ventures, and China-based Kinzon Capital, re-upped in the investment.

The round also saw the participation of new investors included private equity (PE) firm CMC Capital Group; CDB Equipment Manufacturing Industrial Investment Fund, an investment vehicle of state-backed China Development Bank Capital (CDB Capital); and Hengjian Investment, a holding company of the local government in southern China’s Guangdong Province. Investment management services provider Zhuhai Huajin Capital; and equity investment firm Tryin Capital were also among the group of new investors.

“As China ramps up efforts to promote independent and innovative technologies, coupled with an overall trend of AI empowering the mobility industry, we will further accelerate the R&D and commercialisation of self-developed autonomous driving technologies,” said Tony Han Xu, CEO and co-founder of WeRide, in the statement.

“We target to lift the stability and safety of our technologies and ensure the regulatory compliance of company operations, with an aim to provide industries and citizens with reliable self-driving products and services,” said Han.

Founded in 2017, WeRide specialises in the development of Level 4 autonomous vehicles, which are considered to be fully self-driving vehicles that can handle the majority of highly complex urban driving situations independently, although the presence of a human driver is still required.

WeRide is also backed by Chinese AI major SenseTime, as well as Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital (VC) arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi as the French-Japanese automakers alliance’s first investment in China.

The firm launched a Robotaxi pilot program in November 2019, deploying dozens of Level 4 autonomous driving technology-enabled taxis at the Huangpu District and the Guangzhou Development District in southern China’s Guangzhou City to serve consumers. Such a service was made available to Guangzhou’s local users of Alibaba’s map app AutoNavi in June 2020.

As of November 2020, WeRide’s Robotaxi program has delivered 147,128 trips and served a total of over 60,000 consumers.

As part of the investment, the lead investor Yutong and WeRide will join hands to explore new options of smart mobility, including the development of self-driving minibuses, city buses, and more. The duo already showcased China’s first fully driverless minibus, a front-loaded, mass-produced model with no steering wheel, accelerator, or brakes.

The startup has a team of more than 300 staff, over 70 per cent of which are R&D engineers. It has R&D and operation branches in Bejing, Shanghai, Anqing in China, as well as Silicon Valley in the US.

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).   

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  • 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. 
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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.