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HOw to Grow a Pioneering AI Startup in China

SenseTime: How to Grow a Pioneering AI Startup in China


After working for legal departments in foreign corporations, Zhang Wang got a call last year to join a startup focused on artificial intelligence. Though it was a departure from his past, he signed on for the opportunity to become vice president and general manager of SenseTime, a leading AI company.

In contrast, Yang Fan, who had worked at Microsoft Research Asia for eight years integrating new technologies into products, was more than ready to experience startup life. So he jumped at the opportunity when the founder of SenseTime asked him to join as co-founder in 2014.

The innovation spirit is very vibrant in China, as evidenced by Wang and Fan’s stories. “Nowadays, in China, everything from the government to various industries is quite different from the past. They are open to innovation,” Yang says.

Help spread innovative thinking

In China, SenseTime is developing AI technology for some of the country's fastest-growing firms and for the public sector in areas including security and surveillance, finance, education and robotics.

Wang sees global possibilities for SenseTime. Although the company is mainly composed of Chinese employees, there is no border for its AI technology that boosts competitiveness and productivity, he says. “In the era of internet, there is no such thing like a national boundary. We are dedicated to developing an AI engineering platform that has no geographical restriction in its application to industries.”

“We must learn from each other with open attitudes and seek common progress,” Fan notes.

SSVB “is one of a kind”

SenseTime chose SPD Silicon Valley Bank (SSVB) as its financial partner to help the company realize its global ambitions. Going global requires resources, connections and partners.

“As a pioneering company, capital support is very important. SSVB is one of the institutions that provided financing support to us in an early stage,” says Wang. The bank also “introduces us to many client groups and helps us build a bridge with many powerful institutions in industry and banking. This broadens our view and helps us lay a foundation to cooperate with them and increase our potential business.” He adds, SSVB “is one of a kind.”

SSVB is a joint venture bank that was established by Silicon Valley Bank and its partner, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co., Ltd., in order to offer specialized commercial banking services specifically for innovative companies and their investors in China. SSVB has branches in Shanghai and Beijing.

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