SoftBank and LINE Further AI Ambitions by Joining This Startup’s $33M Series C
Artificial intelligence startup Appier today revealed that it has secured US$33 million in series C funding from investors such as SoftBank, Line, and Singapore’s EDBI.
The Taipei-based company said in a statement that it will use the investment to hire new team members – particularly in engineering and research and development – as it looks to grow its global presence, which already covers Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and several Southeast Asian countries. Some of the capital will also go toward expanding its product portfolio and enhancing its functionality.
Appier offers a number of products built around technology which tracks an individual user’s activity across all of the web-connected devices they own – be it smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer – enabling advertisers to better target their campaigns.
The startup’s Programmatic Platform uses behavioral and device ownership information gathered by its AI technology to make decisions on which audiences to target at particular times, and on what type of device. Its second product, Aixon, uses artificial intelligence to analyze app and website user data from Appier’s database to derive marketing insights.
Appier co-founder and CEO Chih-Han Yu tells Tech in Asia that the startup currently serves over 1,000 companies around the world. Audi, Tokopedia, Estee Lauder, Minute Maid, Taj, and HK Express are a few of the widely recognised brand names that Appier has worked with.
“Our goal is to provide various enterprise solutions, for a range of business challenges,” says Yu. “We’ve already developed a solution in the marketing space, and one in the data intelligence space, and now we plan to enlarge.”
The money raised in its series C round will be a big help in this regard. But aside from the funding, the investors themselves also bring expertise and market clout to the table. “For this round, our investors include some of the most visionary internet companies in the world,” says Yu. “Also, they are Asia-focused and going global – just like us.” Yu adds that Appier and its series C backers could collaborate on product development and find other synergies between their respective offerings, such as technology integration.
Big name backers
This latest funding comes after a “series B2” injection back in December last year, when it received US$19.5 million from investors including Pavilion Capital – part of Singapore state fund Temasek – WI Harper Group, FirstFloor Capital, and Qualgro.
UOB Venture Management and MediaTek Ventures are among Appier’s previous backers. The startup’s US$6 million series A round was led by Sequoia Capital, making it the first Taiwanese investment for the US VC giant.
Clearly, Appier has had its fair share of corporate investors – and today’s series C round adds significantly to that list. Alongside investment firms EDBI and AMTD Group, Line, Naver, and SoftBank have also pumped capital into the startup on this occasion.
The participation of SoftBank is particularly noteworthy. The Japanese company’s CEO Masayoshi Son – who predicts that the Technological Singularity will occur within the next 30 years – has highlighted artificial intelligence as a key growth area, and it is one of the main themes of SoftBank’s biblically proportioned US$93 billion Vision Fund (though Yu confirms the Appier investment comes from SoftBank itself).
Since the start of this year, SoftBank or its affiliates have invested in a host of artificial intelligence startups, including digital avatar creator Oben, online lender Kabbage, cybersecurity business Cybereason, and robot intelligence company Brain.
Hold the line
Japanese messaging app Line is another notable investor in Appier’s series C. Artificial intelligence is likewise high on its agenda. Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa earlier this year described artificial intelligence as “our most important project at Line,” representing “a paradigm shift as dramatic as the rise of the smartphone a decade ago.”
Additionally the company – which has been hemorrhaging users in several of its key markets – has been eyeing increased M&A activity following its IPO last year. Idezawa said in an interview last year that part of the US$1.3 billion Line raised from its New York float would go toward acquisitions that could take it beyond messaging and mobile gaming into areas such as food delivery, job searches, and travel bookings. Idezawa said that Line was “open-minded about the size and geography” of potential takeover targets, so long as they are “the right fit” in business model and talent terms.