Xiaomi-backed self-driving chip developer Black Sesame bags over $500m in Series C, C+

Black Sesame Technologies, a Chinese developer of chips for autonomous driving, has pocketed over $500 million within 12 months across two tranches of a Series C funding round.

The Shanghai-based startup announced on Monday the completion of its Series C+ round led by Chinese equity investment firm SummitView Capital. A range of domestic investors, including China Industrial Bank, GF Xinde Investment Management, Hina Group, North Beta Capital’s USD fund management arm, Xin Ding Capital and Yangtze River Investment Fund Management, participated in the extended round.

The latest tranche came less than one year after Black Sesame raked in what it referred to as “hundreds of millions of US dollars” from a Series C round and a strategic investment, both of which were led by Xiaomi Yangtze River Industry Investment Fund, an investment unit of Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi Corporation. Its valuation reached almost $2 billion on the completion of the previous deals.

“The rising development of smart vehicles has increased the demand for high-performance self-driving chips with strong computing power… We seek to make more contributions to further promote China’s autonomous driving industry as a key part of the domestic auto supply chain,” Shan Jizhang, the startup’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Founded in 2016, Black Sesame leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to develop chips and solutions that enable image processing and perception algorithms for self-driving vehicles. It focuses on the provision of Level 2-3 autonomous driving and advanced driver assistance systems (ADASs) to German automotive supplier Bosch, as well as a slew of carmakers such as BYD Co Ltd and China’s state-owned FAW Group and SAIC Motor.

The startup operates from R&D centres and offices across Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Singapore with almost 300 employees, about 80% of who are R&D professionals, according to its official website.

With the new financing, Black Sesame looks to enhance core technologies and boost the R&D, mass production and commercialisation of its chip products.

Before the Series B deals, the startup closed a near-$100-million Series B round led by Legend Capital’s semiconductor investment arm SL Capital in April 2019. Prior to that, it completed a Series A round led by Northern Light Venture Capital in 2016 and a Series A+ round of nearly 100 million yuan ($14.8 million) in 2018.

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