Xiaomi mulls investing in AI Chipmaker Black Sesame


Sources familiar with the matter claim that mobile phone giant Xiaomi Corp. is among investors considering joining a funding round of at least 1.5 billion yuan ($231 million) for Black Sesame Technologies Inc.

The fundraising would value Black Sesame at as much as $1.5 billion, the sources said.

The Shanghai-headquartered artificial intelligence and autonomous driving chipmaker backers in its previous funding round included Tencent Holdings Ltd, one of the sources said.

Black Sesame is considering an initial public offering on China’s technology-focused Shanghai Star board as soon as next year, according to the sources.

At least one more round of investment is planned before any potential IPO.

Xiaomi has invested billions in scores of startups to build out its smartphone and online ecosystem, but a deal with Black Sesame would mark the company’s latest bet on the automotive arena since announcing a $10 billion plan to build electric vehicles.

The startup, which designs AI chips and systems for cars, counts major auto industry firms including Robert Bosch GmbH, SAIC Motor Corp. and BYD Co. among its clients, according to its website.

Details of the fundraising such as size and valuation could change, the sources said.

Discussions of the IPO are at an early stage and the company could decide not to pursue a listing.

Founded in 2016, Black Sesame is an artificial intelligence company focused on image processing, perception algorithms and system-on-a-chip design, according to its website.

It has about 300 employees, 80% of whom work in research and development, the site shows.