July 10, 2019

US dominates AI startup investment, but China makes up ground

By Robert Scammell

US venture capital (VC) firms are making up the lion’s share of investment in artificial intelligence (AI) startups, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.

According to its research, eight of the top ten venture capital investors in AI startups were headquartered in the US.

The top ten AI VC investors in 2018 were: Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Accel, IDG Capital, Y Combinator, Baidu Ventures, Battery Ventures, First Round Capital and New Enterprise Associates.

Sequoia registered the highest number of investment and proportionate investment value in 2018.

Baidu Ventures had the highest growth in the number of investments. It also recorded the highest growth for proportionate investment value in 2018 when compared to the 2014-2017 average.

In 2018, the top ten venture capital investors participated in 150 funding rounds. This is an increase of 66.7% over the 2014-2017 average, with 2018 marking a record high.

Reflecting the dominance of the US and China in AI space, the two countries together accounted for more than 60% of the total VC investment volume in 2018.

The US and China also accounted for 80% of the total investment value in 2018.

China closes ground on AI startup investment

While US firms remain at the forefront of AI startup investment, there are signs that China is closing ground.

Between 2014 and 2017 the US’ share of AI startup investment volume fell from 55.7% to 44.3% in 2018. Meanwhile, AI startups in China increased from 4.6% in 2014-2017 to 17.9% in 2018.

China has set itself the goal of becoming a global leader in AI by 2030, with its government taking steps such as investing in education to help meet its aim. Meanwhile the US has been slower to adopt a national-level AI policy.

“On the back of decades of Federal research funding, best-in-class talent pool and corporate initiatives, the US remains at the forefront of the VC investment AI space,” said Aurojyoti Bose, financial deals analyst at GlobalData.

“However, it lacked any Federal level national policy agenda on AI until February 2019, when President Trump launched the American AI Initiative program. On the other hand, several countries including China were ahead in releasing their AI development roadmaps and committed billions of dollars towards it.”

He added: “With the launch of American AI Initiative, the competition between the US and China is likely to become fierce. As a result, the global AI space is expected to witness a growth in the number of start-ups, which in turn will result in strong VC investment activity.”

Read more: Technology industry venture financing deals in May 2019 total $4.44bn in US

Verdict deals analysis methodology

This analysis considers only announced and completed cross border deals from the GlobalData financial deals database and excludes all terminated and rumoured deals. Country and industry are defined according to the headquarters and dominant industry of the target firm. The term ‘acquisition’ refers to both completed deals and those in the bidding stage.

GlobalData tracks real-time data concerning all merger and acquisition, private equity/venture capital and asset transaction activity around the world from thousands of company websites and other reliable sources.

More in-depth reports and analysis on all reported deals are available for subscribers to GlobalData’s deals database.

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