Alibaba Leads $600 Million Funding Round for Chinese AI Firm MiniMax

Alibaba Leads $600 Million Funding Round for Chinese AI Firm MiniMax

E-commerce giant Alibaba is doubling down on its AI investments, with reports indicating that the company is leading a new funding round for Shanghai-based AI start-up MiniMax. According to investors familiar with the matter, the funding would value MiniMax at more than $2 billion, with the start-up looking to raise at least $600 million in this round.

Founded in 2021, by some former employees of SenseTime, MiniMax has quickly gained traction in the AI space, attracting investments from major players such as Tencent Holdings and Genshin Impact creator miHoYo. The company's rapid growth and investor interest highlight the strong appetite for generative AI start-ups in mainland China, which led global investments in this sector in the first half of 2023.

If confirmed, the MiniMax deal would mark Alibaba's second major AI investment this year, following its lead role in a $1 billion funding round for Beijing-based Moonshot AI in February. That deal, which valued Moonshot AI at more than $2.5 billion, represented the largest single financing raised by a Chinese AI start-up since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022.

Chinese AI Startup Moonshot Raises $1 Billion with $2.5 Billion Valuation
The company was founded less than a year ago (march 2023) by 31-year-old AI luminary Yang Zhilin, a Carnegie Mellon PhD graduate formerly with Google Brain and Meta AI.

Alibaba's increased focus on AI investments aligns with the commitment made by CEO Eddie Wu Yongming in November 2023, when he stated that the company would "provide infrastructure services for AI innovation and transformation in thousands of industries". Wu also emphasized Alibaba's strategic focus on being "AI-driven" in a letter to employees in September last year.

The e-commerce giant's AI ambitions were further underscored by the public release of its large language model, Tongyi Qianwen, in September 2023. The move aimed to make the technology used to train AI services like ChatGPT accessible to "every ordinary person and enterprise".

Alibaba's aggressive AI investment strategy mirrors the broader trend among Silicon Valley giants like Microsoft, which are placing significant bets on generative AI. As the global race to dominate the AI landscape intensifies, Alibaba appears to be positioning itself at the forefront of this transformative technology in China.

The MiniMax funding round is ongoing, with Alibaba and HongShan (formerly Sequoia China) already committed to the deal. However, as negotiations with additional investors continue, the final deal terms may be subject to change.

Chris McKay is the founder and chief editor of Maginative. His thought leadership in AI literacy and strategic AI adoption has been recognized by top academic institutions, media, and global brands.

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