What pandemic? China biometrics startup clinches $141M fund
It is a precarious moment for the waylaid Chinese economy, but a Shenzhen biometrics startup has just closed a round of financing totaling $141 million (CNY 1 billion).
An investment research firm in China called the haul “earth-shattering.” The startup, Intellifusion, appears to be constructing a facial-recognition empire the way Microsoft Corp. created an A-to-Z juggernaut for software.
Six-year-old Intellifusion is expected to file for an initial public offering (IPO) in the ill-defined near term, another remarkable ambition given that China’s economy and manufacturing base are still trying to figure out what hit them amid COVID-19 devastation.
Those ignoring this to sink money into the company included lead investors Utrust VC, Forebright Capital and previous backer Walden International. Participating were CCB International, Bocom International, BOC & Trust Private Equity Fund, Topping Capital, Tsinghua Holdings Capital, HCSD Capital, Sino-US Venture Capital and Sirius Capital.
The company is involved in a number of surveillance-enhancing endeavors. It has a sizable line of sleek surveillance cameras, but then, as the South China Morning Post has reported, Intellifusion’s home base — special economic zone and megapolis Shenzhen — is infamous for its blanket of jaywalker identification systems. At least 10,000 of them are 7 million-pixel sensors bearing Intellifusion’s brand.
What most intrigued investors’ attention in the latest and probably last private round are Intellifusion’s strategic products: artificial intelligence chips, machine learning algorithms, and big data platforms.
Surprising no one, funds from the latest round are promised to the research and development of artificial intelligence algorithms and chips, big data, marketing and business-scenario exploration.
To see how it all comes together for investors in the company, Intellifusion was hired about two years ago to match the faces of jaywalkers with a police big data platform. The system displays on LED screens, in real time, scofflaws’ blurred faces, surnames and part of their official identification numbers to humiliate people into behaving better, according to the South China Morning Post.