Jack Ma’s Yungfeng Capital co-leads $100m round for self-driving startup QCraft

QCraft Inc, a self-driving technology startup with operations in China and the US, has secured $100 million in a Series A+ round of financing co-led by Alibaba’s Jack Ma-backed Yunfeng Capital and ex-Tencent Investment head’s Genesis Capital.

Longzhu Capital, the venture capital arm of Chinese food delivery giant Meituan, IDG Capital, and an unnamed pension fund participated in the deal, QCraft announced in a WeChat post on Monday. Beijing-based Scale Partners served as the financial advisor.

QCraft was founded in Silicon Valley in March 2019 by a group of Chinese software engineers who previously worked with US industry giants like Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo, Google, Tesla, Nvidia, and Facebook. The startup specialises in the development of a Gigafactory that streamlines the design and delivery of Level 4 autonomous driving solutions for complex urban environments.

A year after receiving a licence to test autonomous driving vehicles in California, QCraft in July 2020 launched its first-generation self-driving solution, “Driven-by-QCraft,” as well as “Longzhou One,” the firm’s debut autonomous minibus that started trial operations on open roads in eastern China’s Suzhou City last October.

QCraft-enabled Longzhou series, which has been deployed across five Chinese cities like Beijing, Shenzhen, and Wuhan, is expanding to enable a wide range of vehicles including ridesharing cars and shuttle buses. The startup said that it targets to further enlarge the test fleet into over 100 vehicles within this year.

The Series A+ round is the biggest investment that QCraft has raised since its inception. The startup announced in March the completion of a Series A1 round at “tens of millions of US dollars.”

In 2020, it had raised funding from Lenovo Capital & Incubator Group in October, following a seed round backed by IDG Capital, Vision Plus Capital, and Tide Capital that April.

China as a key self-driving market

QCraft’s accelerated fundraising pace comes as regulators in China, the world’s largest auto market, set a new target in November 2020 to have vehicles with partial self-driving technology account for 50% of all its new-auto sales by 2025.

Globally, the autonomous driving market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3% between 2020 and 2024, according to US market researcher IDC. As China is expected to remain as a key player in the sector, domestic companies from tech giants to automakers and venture-backed startups are all ramping up their efforts to increase development in the field.

Search engine giant Baidu has partnered with state-owned automaker BAIC Group to build 1,000 driverless cars over the next three years with an aim to commercialise a robotaxi service in China. Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing firm, was reportedly raising as much as $500 million for its self-driving unit, while planning to deploy over one million self-driving taxis through its platform by 2030.

Other up-and-coming self-driving startups include Toyota Motor Corp-backed Pony.ai; WeRide, which is funded by Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance and China Structural Reform Fund; and e-commerce giant Alibaba-backed AutoX.

“[The development of] autonomous driving will be a long-distance journey. To become a player who can successfully complete the whole journey, one needs more than just massive data, but also highly efficient automation capabilities powered by a Gigafactory,” said Yu Qian, co-founder and CEO of QCraft, in the post.

“Commercially, the firm should be able to achieve mass production under controllable expenses, as well as commercialisation through gradually expanding the application of its self-driving technologies across various transportation vehicles such as robobuses and robotaxis,” said Yu.

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.