1st June 2023 – (Beijing) Chinese startup MiniMax is on the verge of completing a successful fundraising round, which is expected to raise over US$250 million, valuing the company at approximately US$1.2 billion. Sources familiar with the matter revealed that the company’s investors include a Tencent-linked entity, among others. MiniMax is a tech company that develops artificial intelligence (AI) solutions similar to those of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has sparked a global AI buzz. The AI industry growth has been witnessed in China, with Alibaba, Huawei, and Baidu announcing rival products.
MiniMax was founded in 2021 by former employees of SenseTime, including Yan Junjie, a former vice president at the Chinese AI firm. Its fundraising round highlights the growing investor interest in what could be China’s answer to OpenAI. The fundraising comes at a time when venture capital investment is facing pressures in the country due to an uncertain economic recovery and US controls on chip exports.
In recent times, Chinese regulators have proposed greater oversight of the emerging popular technology. Some investors and advisers predict significant deal activity in the country’s broader AI-generated content sector in the second half of this year. Big tech companies are already investing significant resources in developing their own AI models. Meanwhile, startups headed by big-name entrepreneurs like MiniMax are also coming onboard.
Other startups that have been founded by well-known entrepreneurs in China include Beijing Lightyear Technology, founded by Wang Huiwen, a co-founder of on-demand service giant Meituan, and Project AI 2.0, unveiled by Google China’s former chief, Kai-Fu Lee. Wang Xiaochuan, the founder of China’s No.2 search engine Sogou, has also founded Baichuan Intelligence with a startup capital of US$50 million.
MiniMax’s early investors include China’s Yunqi Partners and Future Capital, as per statements from the venture capital funds. The company also received funding from miHoYo, the creator of the popular game “Genshin Impact,” when it was starting out. However, the details of the financial agreement were not disclosed.
MiniMax’s app, Glow, allows users to create virtual characters and chat with them about various topics, such as relationship advice and hair loss remedies. MiniMax’s AI model can also perform a wide range of tasks. According to Charlie Chai, an analyst with 86Research, MiniMax’s technology has received positive feedback. Kingsoft Cloud Group is working with MiniMax and Baidu’s ERNIE Bot for office productivity use cases. The feedback seems to favour MiniMax, said Chai, adding that, though in an early-stage of development, the remarks were surprising since Baidu was held in high regard.