Chinese Chipmaker Horizon Robotics Raises $600 million

The funding round was led by South Korean conglomerate SK, semiconductor supplier SK Hynix and several automotive groups and their investment vehicles

You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.



China’s Horizon Robotics has raised $600 million funding in a Series B round led by South Korean conglomerate SK, semiconductor supplier SK Hynix and several top automotive groups and their investment vehicles. The company has set a new record in the AI chip making industry, and is touted to be world’s highest valued AI chip unicorn.

The latest Series B financing followed the more than $100 million Series A financing in 2017, said the company in a press statement. Other partners and investors include Beijing-based China Oceanwide Capital, CMBC Capital, CLSA’s CSOBOR Fund and Oceanpine Capital.

The Money Trail

The Chinese startup is founded by former director of Baidu Deep Learning Research Institute, Yu Kai. The company received more than $100 million in its Series A round, which was led by Intel in 2017. This time, with an investment from two of the world’s top three semiconductor companies as its major shareholders, the three-year-old startup has grown rapidly in the China’s crowded semiconductor industry.

Talking about what impressed the investors, Wu Zuoyi, President of SK China, says, "Horizon Robotics has unparalleled technology supported by product capabilities and world-class talents. Especially in the field of AI processors and autonomous driving, we are impressed by its outstanding products and solutions. SK Group has a leading and solid foundation in the fields of 5G networking, autonomous driving and smart city.”

Booming Semiconductor Industry

As the government of China is boosting home-grown companies to reduce its dependence from imported semiconductors, world’s top investors are backing AI chip makers. Under a blueprint drafted by the State Council, China’s cabinet, the value of the nation’s core AI industries is expected to exceed 150 billion yuan (US$22.46 billion) by 2020 and 400 billion yuan by 2025.

"Since its establishment more than three years ago, Horizon Robotics has devoted itself to becoming the leader in edge AI processors and computing platforms - enabling autonomous driving, smart cities, smart robotics and other AIoT devices, powering AI to make everyone's life safer and better,” says Yu Kai, founder and CEO of Horizon Robotics.

Founded in 2015, the company has partnered with top automotive companies that include German carmaker Audi, Bosch, Chang’an, BYD, SAIC Motor and Guangzhou Automobile Group. The chips manufactured by company are being used in autonomous driving and the Internet of Things, covering processors, chips and related devices.

Besides the automotive industry, the company is also providing its chips to Xiaomi in its manufacturing of AI smart speaker.

Another AI chip designer, Cambricon, raised hundreds of millions of dollars in a B round in June that valued the Beijing-based start-up at US$2.5 billion. As China is leading towards “AI Revolution”, country’s top dot-com firms — including Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu — and venture capital firms have announced their own AI strategies and investment.

Dozens of AI unicorns — private firms valued at US$1 billion — have cropped up in China in recent years, says a CB Insights report published in September last year.