Tencent Steps Up AI Push With Research Lab in Seattle

Tencent Steps Up AI Push With Research Lab in Seattle

Chinese social media and gaming giant Tencent Holdings said on Tuesday it will open an artificial intelligence (AI) research facility in Seattle in the United States, to be led by former Microsoft scientist Yu Dong.

Yu, who has been appointed as deputy head of Tencent’s AI Lab division, will run the new lab as well as spearhead research in speech recognition and natural language understanding, the company said.

Tencent, which owns the popular WeChat messaging app, is Asia’s most valuable company with a market capitalisation of nearly $300 billion (roughly Rs. 19,25,936 crores).

Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent is one of a number of Chinese technology juggernauts that are stepping up efforts in AI research. Tencent’s WeChat has more than 889 million monthly active users.

Tencent has more than 50 researchers and more than 200 engineers at its AI Lab in Shenzhen, which was established in April 2016, according to the company.
China’s “Big Three” tech firms – Tencent, Baidu Inc and Alibaba – have been competing to attract top-notch talent.

Yu, a speech recognition and deep learning expert, was the principal researcher at Microsoft Research Institute’s Speech and Dialog Group before joining Tencent.

Baidu suffered a setback to its AI ambitions after its chief scientist Andrew Ng resigned in March, shortly before Tencent announced it has poached Baidu’s former big data director Zhang Tong to head up its AI Lab.

Yu is looking to build a team of around 20 for the Seattle lab, according to Tencent.




Hike Messenger Raises $175 Million in Funding From Tencent, Foxconn, Others

Hike Messenger Raises $175 Million in Funding From Tencent, Foxconn, Others


  • Hike Messenger announced funding of $175 million
  • Hike Messenger is now valued at close to $1.4 billion
  • The funding round was led by Tencent and Foxconn

Hike Messenger, started as a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and SoftBank, just announced its Series D funding round of $175 million (approximately Rs. 1,170 crores) at a valuation of $1.4 billion (approximately Rs. 9,350 crores), in a round led by Tencent and Foxconn. Existing investors Tiger, Bharti, and Softbank all also participated in the funding round. Interestingly, Tencent also owns WeChat, a competitor for Hike in India.

In January, Hike announced that it has a base of 100 million users, 95 percent of whom are based in India. According to the company, its users exchange 40 billion messages per month, and spend 120 minutes each week on the platform.

“Hike deeply understands India; a highly diverse market with many nuances,” said Martin Lau, Tencent President. “With our investment, Hike will be able to leverage our deep domain expertise in the messaging platform space.”

Talking about Foxconn’s investment in Hike, FIH Mobile CEO, Calvin Chih said that messaging platforms represent significant investment potential. “Hike, with its hyperlocal strategy is clearly the company of choice for us to co-invest with our partners, SoftBank and Tencent,” he added.

“Hike is one of SoftBank’s best performing portfolio companies in India and we are happy to have stayed invested in it from the beginning,” added Masayoshi Son, Founder, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank Group.

The company will be using the money raised to invest in areas for the long term, according to Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder and CEO Hike Messenger, who also talked about the importance of the investment in that it brings in new partners such as Foxconn and Tencent.

Tags: Bharti, Foxconn, Funding, Hike, Series D, Softbank, Tenent



Tencent Merges With China Music Corporation to Develop Digital Music

Tencent Merges With China Music Corporation to Develop Digital Music

Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd will take a majority stake in a new venture with leading music-streaming company China Music Corporation that combines their digital music businesses. Financial terms were not disclosed but a person with knowledge of the matter said the new company would be valued at about $6 billion (roughly Rs. 40,249 crores). The person declined to be identified as the information has not been made public.

Tencent faces the challenge of having to persuade Chinese users to pay for digital music in a market where piracy has been a major issue, analysts said, but the biggest social network and online entertainment company in China could leverage its popular WeChat mobile payment system to promote value-added music services.

“Tencent is trying to build the iTunes of China,” said Core Pacific Yamaichi analyst Kevin Tam, referring to Apple Inc’s music and entertainment service.

“Tencent will be able to provide incentives for WeChat uses with value-added music services,” Tam said.

WeChat had 762 million monthly active users at the end of March, while China Music Corporation has 460 million of those.

Shenzhen-based Tencent said it would fully support the new company to develop its digital music business, paving the way for an initial public offering.

“The new company will be the flagship for Tencent’s digital music and related businesses,” Tencent President Martin Lau said in the statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Tags: China, Digital Music, Internet, Online Music, QQ, Tencent

WeChat Now Has 697 Million Monthly Active Users, Says Tencent

WeChat Now Has 697 Million Monthly Active Users, Says Tencent

Chinese Internet giant Tencent, operator of the country’s most popular messaging app WeChat, on Thursday reported a 22 percent jump in fourth quarter net profit but fell short of expectations.

The firm is engaged in a three-way fight over mobile payment services in China with domestic rivalAlibaba and US tech behemoth Apple.

Net profit for the fourth quarter reached CNY 7.16 billion (roughly Rs. 7,339 crores), Tencent said in a statement. The market had expected a higher CNY 7.44 billion, according to an average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg News.

Monthly active users for WeChat known as Weixin in Chinese reached 697 million at the end of 2015, up 39 percent year-on-year, the statement said. Tencent also operates an older instant messaging service called QQ.

“Our QQ and Weixin social platforms continued to improve and innovate, reinforcing their positions as China’s most-used mobile applications,” Tencent chairman and chief executive Pony Ma said in the statement.

“We created new social advertising formats and technology to help advertisers reach consumers online,” he said.

Besides advertising, Tencent uses its social media platforms to offer mobile games, digital music, video and other services to users, and the statement said the company was looking to “enrich” its mobile payment services this year.

Tencent is second in China’s mobile and online payments market with a 17 percent share but lags far behind e-commerce giant Alibaba, which commands nearly three-quarters, according to Beijing-based BigData Research.

US technology giant Apple last month launched its mobile payment service Apple Pay in China, in a challenge to the established firms.

Fourth quarter revenue surged 45 percent year-on-year to CNY 30.44 billion, Tencent said.

For all of 2015, revenue rose 30 percent on the year to CNY 102.86 billion, yielding a net profit of 28.81 billion, a 21 percent rise, it said.

Shares of Tencent closed up 0.93 percent in Hong Kong, where it is listed, on Thursday.

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Tags: Apps, Internet, Social, Tencent, WeChat