YU Kai, the leading maker of artificial intelligence chips in China Horizon Robotics’ founder and CEO, claimed the company will prefer to maintain its current private status and will not go IPO this year, which allows them to initiate some bold plans, in an interview with Bloomberg Markets: China Open this week.
The company announced that it has completed around USD 600 million in Series B funding round which valued the company at USD 3 billion in Feb (see more in this article), which surpassed the USD 2.5 billion valuation of another chipmaker Cambricon Technology (寒武纪科技) has achieved in its Series B round funding.
YU claimed the money will be used for talents, technology development, and its sales and marketing team, which implied that the company does plan to commercialize this year as it once alleged that 2019 is the starting year of commercialization.
YU thinks that fully autonomous driving will not be ready in five years. However, “the main focus is for driving assistance or called as ADAS (Advanced driver-assistance systems). Given 30 million new car every year in China, I think it is a huge market for the ADAS,” YU said.
YU also affirmed the allegation that he made one year before that the company is going to be the leader in autonomous driving to equip 30 million cars in China. Horizon sets to launches its first and also the country’s first automotive grade AI processor this year.
The driverless car race has been extremely crowded globally. China’s tech giants Alibaba and Baidu is doing research outside China. YU said they are definitely spending money and has R&D center in Silicon Valley and Europe.
Horizon Robotics was founded in 2015 by Yu Kai, a former Head of Baidu Institute of Deep Learning and an early developer of Baidu’s autonomous driving program. Its investors include Intel Capital Corp., Shanghai-based Harvest Fund Management Co., Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and state-owned China Jianyin Investment Ltd.
Backed by Intel, the company has once been bothered by the concerns on escalated China-US trade disputes, but YU said he has seen China’s government is getting more open to foreign capitals, investors, and enterprises as time goes. China even canceled the limitation on share proportion in joint ventures hold by Chinese and foreigners.
“There is no any other single market in China. We have around 70 different car brands, it's very diverse and very international. This is the playground for all the best companies to play in China, "YU said.
The company is cooperating with Volkswagen AG’s Audi; Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., the local partner of Ford Motor Co. in terms of autonomous driving technology. SK Telecom and Horizon Robotics agreed on the smart retail development on Nov 2018 and the two companies reached a cooperative agreement at CES 2019. In addition, its powerful AI processor could also be applied in retail scenarios, with its proprietary Sunrise chip.