(Yicai Global) March 3 -- Chinese artificial intelligence startup Frontis has raised hundreds of millions of Chinese yuan, equal to tens of millions of US dollars, in its latest fundraiser.
The angel round was led by Qiming Venture Partners, the Beijing-based company announced on its official WeChat account on March 1. Matrix Partners China also took part in the financing.
Frontis was founded in 2021 by the former head of JD.Com's AI research institute Zhou Bowen. Its team has staffers from Chinese internet giants, such as JD.Com, Tencent Holdings, and ByteDance, and multinational tech corporations like Microsoft and IBM. Zhou is still hiring talents, including research and development partners, product partners, and algorithm scientists.
"I believe China's OpenAI needs to explore a new path, which is vertical integration from its basic big model to the application and use of an all-round closed-loop, while realizing the technical and commercial values of generative AI," Zhou said in a WeChat post.
"Over the last decade, most AI firms focused on discriminative models, which are used for tasks such as image or speech recognition," said Alex Zhou, a partner at Qiming Venture Partners. "In recent years, the AI industry evolved into generative AI with fast developments of large-scale pre-training generative models."
Training large models needs substantial initial investment. For example, the 120-day training of OpenAI's GPT-3 model using thousands of Nvidia's flagship-level A100 Tensor Core GPU cost USD4.6 million two years ago. GPT-3's full training cost OpenAI tens of millions of US dollars. "Only top-notch talents can get such great financial support," Alex Zhou said.
Exports of high-performance chips, including A100 and H100, to China were restricted last October," Alex Zhou added. "How to use homegrown AI chips to replace imported ones and lower costs is a big challenge facing Chinese AI firms."
This year's ChatGPT frenzy shocked primary and secondary markets, with big corporations, startups, and technical talents flocking to the area. Meituan's co-founder Wang Huiwen, Chumen Wenwen's founder and Chief Executive Officer Zhifei Li, and Sogou's former CEO Wang Xiaochuan confirmed they are working on ChatGPT-like projects.
Editors: Liao Shumin, Futura Costaglione