Zuoyebang raises US$1.6bn+ in Series E+ financing
In an announcement made by an online after school education startup - Zuoyebang - the company has raised more than US$1.6bn in a Series E+ financing round. INvestors included Alibaba, Tiger Global, Softbank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital China, Fountainvest Partners and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers'). Taihecap was Zuoyebang's financial advisor for this round of fundraising.
With its new capital, Zuoyebang has reported that it will continue its focus on “developing its core business of live streaming courses, enhancing its strength in after school education technology and market penetration capabilities, and investing to strengthen and expand its existing product portfolios.”
In June 2020, Zuoyebang completed a US$750mn Seris E funding. Investors included: Fountainvest Partners, Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital China, SoftBank's Vision Fund, Primavera Capital, GGV Capital, Xiang He Capital, Tiantu Capital, and Taihecap.
"Making quality education accessible to all has been Zuoyebang's mission since our inception. It drives our growth and continuous efforts to maintain our leading position in innovation, penetration and scale. The online after school education sector in China is moving into a new phase of development which urges leading players to define the market with high-quality, innovative and sustainable growth. The new capital will enable Zuoyebang to accelerate our growth, going from strength to strength, and to provide better education resources to meet the huge demand in the Chinese market,” commented Hou Jianbin, founder and CEO of Zuoyebang.
Since its founding in 2015, Zuoyebang provides innovative technology via an all round digital apps that hold one of the largest online question database globally in the sector.
Its apps include: Zuoyebang Super App, Zuoyebang Live Courses App, Zuoyebang Oral Arithmetic Calculation App, and YAYA AI Courses App.
Zuoyebang currently has over 50mn daily active users, 170mn monthly active users, and 800mn user-registered devices.
Beyond Limits: Cognitive AI in APAC
Courtesy of current estimates, it looks like Asia-Pacific AI will be worth US$136bn by 2025. Its governments and corporations invest more money than the rest of the world in AI tech, the data of its citizens is considered fair game, and its pilots are small-scale and, as a result, ruthlessly effective. This is why, according to Jeff Olson, Cognizant’s Associate Vice President for Projects, AI and Analytics, Digital Business and Technology, the APAC region ‘is right on the edge of an AI explosion’.
Now, startup Beyond Limits is pushing the boundaries of what AI can do, mirroring humans in its ability to find solutions with even limited information. As of this July, it’s partnered up with Mitsui, a global trading and investment company, to expand its impact in APAC.
How Does Beyond Limits Work?
Most AI companies claim that they can help businesses make better decisions. But many need astoundingly large stores of data to feed their information-hungry algorithms. Beyond Limits, in contrast, takes a different tack. Perfect data, after all, is largely a pipe dream kept alive by PhD students. In reality, systems must often make decisions from small, incomplete sets of intel.
But Beyond Limits’ AI is no black box. ‘When little to no data is available, Beyond Limits symbolic technologies rely on deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning capabilities’, explained Clare Walker, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. While making these leaps in logic, however, the system also keeps track, ensuring that humans can review the AI’s ‘thought process’.
Why Partner With Mitsui?
Beyond Limits is built for specific applications such as energy, utilities, and healthcare—but lacks the extensive industry network of Mitsui. Partnering allows Beyond Limits to access a portfolio of firms specialising in minerals and metals, energy, infrastructure, and chemicals. ‘We’ve been working on this deal for several years’, said Mitsui’s Deputy General Manager Hiroki Tanabe. ‘Mitsui’s global portfolio and Beyond Limits’ AI technology will...deliver impact’.
In the first test of that dramatic statement, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) will soon deploy Beyond Limits’ new system. If everything goes according to plan, LNG will optimise how it extracts and refines energy, making money for both itself and investors—including Mitsui. This, in fact, is Mitsui’s strategy: go digital and don’t look back.
Why Does This Matter?
Forty-five percent of Asia-Pacific companies surveyed in Cognizant’s thought leadership ebook consider themselves AI leaders. Positivity bias, that oh-so-common tendency of humans to position themselves as above average as compared to others, strikes again. (Most small companies fail to launch successful AI projects on their own.) And partly, this is because firms fail to integrate AI with industry expertise.
‘A large part of the focus on talent for AI today has been getting the people who are strong in mathematics, AI, and technologies’, said Olson. ‘But where you make your money out of AI projects is when you apply them to your business’. In short: APAC nations looking for ways to bridge the gap might follow Beyond Limits and Mitsui’s playbook—coupling startup AI with a corporate network.