By Roxanne Liu and Josh Ye
BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese startup MiniMax, working on AI solutions similar to Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT, is set to complete a more than $250 million funding round that will will value it at around $1.2 billion, people familiar with the matter said.
The deal comes amid a global AI buzz started by ChatGPT that has spread to China, bolstering shares of artificial intelligence firms and prompting a wave of domestic firms, such as Alibaba, Huawei and Baidu, to announce rival products.
MiniMax’s latest fundraising has attracted new investors such as an entity linked to tech giant Tencent, two people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not public.
MiniMax and Tencent did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
MiniMax was founded in 2021 by some former SenseTime employees, including Yan Junjie – a former vice president of the Chinese AI company, two other people said.
Its fundraising highlights growing investor interest in what could be China’s answer to OpenAI, even as venture capital investment faces pressure in the country amid a recovery. faltering economy and US controls on chip exports.
Chinese regulators have proposed greater scrutiny of emerging popular technology, with some investors and advisers predicting significant activity in the broader AI-generated content sector in the second half of this year.
Big tech companies are already devoting massive resources to developing their own AI models, while new startups led by big-name entrepreneurs like MiniMax are also joining in.
Wang Huiwen, co-founder of on-demand services giant Meituan, said he founded a new artificial intelligence company called Beijing Lightyear Technology with $50 million from investors.
Former Google China chief Kai-Fu Lee unveiled his new startup – Project AI 2.0. Wang Xiaochuan, founder of China’s No.2 search engine Sogou, said in April that he founded Baichuan Intelligence with $50 million in seed capital.
THE SHINE OF MINIMAX
When it debuted, MiniMax received funding from miHoYo, the creator of the hit game “Genshin Impact,” the other two people said, without providing further details.
Its other early investors are China’s Yunqi Partners and Future Capital, according to venture capital fund statements.
MiHoYo did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
MiniMax’s app, Glow, currently allows users to create virtual characters, give them background stories, and then chat with them about topics ranging from relationship advice to how to manage hair loss. MiniMax’s AI model can also be used to solve a wide range of tasks.
MiniMax’s technology has received positive feedback, said 86Research analyst Charlie Chai.
“Kingsoft Cloud Group works with both MiniMax and Baidu’s ERNIE Bot for office productivity use cases. Feedback seems to favor MiniMax,” Chai said.
“Of course, this was an early development, but the remarks surprised me quite a bit as I held Baidu in high regard.”
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu in Beijing and Josh Ye in Hong Kong; Editing by Himani Sarkar)