On 9 April 2020, China’s AI platform company AI ERA (aiera.com.cn) published the 2019 White Paper on China’s AI Unicorns. According to the document, by the end of March 2019 China had a total of 50 AI unicorns, with a total value of 3.5 trillion RMB (around 397 billion EUR).
The document mainly reveals how:
- China’s AI unicorns are dominant in automotive transports and enterprise services, with respectively 15 and 13 unicorns (30% and 26% of the total). These are followed by AI unicorns involved in finance services, entertainment, and hardware (respectively 6, 5, and 4 AI unicorns each)
- Over half of China’s AI unicorns – 28 out of 50 – are located in Beijing (mostly in Haidian district). Zhejiang, Shanghai and Guangdong rank 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively with 7, 6, and 5 AI unicorns)
- Tsinghua University is the main incubator of China’s AI unicorns, with 26% of the founding teams and partners having graduated from Tsinghua
In terms of main investors, Sequoia Capital is the investor in China’s AI unicorns, followed by Tencent and Alibaba. Finally, the document identified five main trends characterising the current AI industry scene in China, namely: (i) AI-based autonomous driving technologies will become increasingly central in China’s automotive industry, despite a global slowdown; (ii) China’s enterprises will increasingly require AI-based services such as cloud and big data; (iii) AI-based financial services will lead to a new wave of financial reforms; (iv) AI hardware are now inseparable from Internet of Things; and (v) AI-based education are capturing the largest amount of funding and investment.