Six-month-old Chinese generative AI startup Baichuan enters unicorn club

Six-month-old Chinese generative AI startup Baichuan enters unicorn club

Artificial intelligence. Photo from Unsplash

Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) startup Baichuan Intelligent Technology has closed its Series A1 funding round at $300 million, with backing from technology giants including Alibaba Group, Tencent Holdings, and Xiaomi Corp, to join the coveted unicorn club.

Baichuan—led by Wang Xiaochuan, former chief executive officer of Tencent-owned internet search engine Sogou Inc—reached the unicorn valuation just six months after its founding on April 10, 2023.

Legend Star, an early-stage investment arm of Chinese conglomerate Legend Holdings Corp and a Series A1 round investor, announced the funding round in a post on its WeChat official account on Tuesday. The new investment comes close on the heels of an angel round of $50 million secured by the startup, according to the post.

The six-month-old startup has already launched four open-source, pre-trained large language models (LLMs) available for free to academics and developers with official approval to use them for commercial purposes. It has also introduced two closed-source LLMs mainly for corporate clients.

Large language models are a type of generative AI that can perform a lot of natural language learning tasks. ChatGPT, the popular chatbot from OpenAI, is an example of generative AI.

Baichuan has a team of over 170 people, led by top AI talents who previously worked at companies like Google, Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, Microsoft, and TikTok-owner ByteDance. More than 80% of its current employees are R&D professionals.

By the end of August, the startup became one of the first batch of eight companies to receive approval from Chinese authorities to open their AI large language models to the public.

Internet search firm Baidu’s Ernie Bot and Hong Kong-listed AI company SenseTime’s SenseChat were among the eight companies that have received a regulatory nod in China to debut to the public.

Edited by: Pramod Mathew

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