This funding round is said to be a prominent investment in the Chinese AI industry, as startups like Baichuan plan to capitalize on the growing demand for ChatGPT-like services.
Baichuan, a brainchild of Wang Xiaochuan, the creative force behind the Sogou search engine, has reached a valuation of over $1 billion. The company’s vision revolves around crafting generative AI services, making it a contender against industry titans like Microsoft Corp. and OpenAI.
The startup’s journey encompasses introducing four open-source large language models and ongoing efforts to develop two proprietary platforms. It spans from 7 billion parameters to 13 billion parameters, all available for commercial utilization at no cost. The success of their open-source models is evident in the download count, with two of them amassing over 6 million downloads.
The aspirations of startups like Baichun line up with China’s tech giants collectively investing billions in AI training and development, mirroring the tech frenzy experienced in Silicon Valley.
Baidu Inc.’s billionaire founder, Robin Li, recently asserted the competitive expertise of his company’s large language model, announcing its equivalence to OpenAI’s GPT-4 model and claiming a leadership role in the national AI race.
Baichuan stands as one of the initial Chinese enterprises to secure Beijing’s approval for the public release of AI models, marking its pioneer status in the field.
Baichuan revealed on its WeChat account that this recent financing round succeeded an initial $50 million angel round. Notable contributors include Xiaomi, a well-known smartphone manufacturer, and various investment firms.
The growing interest in generative AI within China has triggered a deluge of product launches and fundraising endeavors. The industry is witnessing startups, and tech giants contend to establish a homegrown counterpart to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Nonetheless, investors have raised a cautionary flag, anticipating an impending consolidation in the industry due to mounting cost and profitability pressures.
The intensifying competition in AI between the United States and China carries major implications, extending beyond technological supremacy. It catalyzes transformative changes across numerous sectors, from transportation to media and finance. The shifts could propel a phase of economic expansion.
Additionally, AI technology wields influence over government and military applications, further entangling the complex Washington-Beijing relationship. The competitive landscape is cast under uncertainty due to the U.S. sanctions that restrict China’s access to chips employed for training and operating AI models. Washington’s tightening grip on exporting AI chips to China amplifies this uncertainty and adds an extra layer of complexity to the situation.