Chinese artificial intelligence startup Bailian.ai announced on its WeChat account on Tuesday that it has closed a Pre-Series A equity financing round at RMB 50 million (USD 7.3 million), led by Hangzhou Dongfang Jiafu Asset Management.
The startup was founded in March 2018 in Beijing by three computer science doctors from the Peking University and Tsinghua University, both of which are top universities in China.
Bailian features an artificial intelligence Software as a Service (SaaS) product that helps companies identify prospective customers by extracting useful clues from huge amounts of unstructured public information found online. The company targets companies in seven areas including finance, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, media and automobiles. However, it hasn’t revealed anything about its revenue and clients.
AI applications in the B2B space are becoming more common around the globe, including in China.
Market research company Gartner in February suggested that chief information officers at B2B companies should introduce AI to their sales processes to free sales representatives from repetitive administrative tasks and to augment their decision making.
“AI technologies already impact the way we structure our lives as consumers, but there is hardly any AI support in professional environments,” said Ilona Hansen, senior director analyst at Gartner, according to the firm’s report, adding that B2B sales especially can benefit tremendously from AI support.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ some kind of AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes.
Generally, the US is regarded as having the lead in AI research, and in AI applications at the enterprise level, but China is catching up and may even overtake the US in the commercialization of AI.
Bailian feeds its system with public information. A comparable startup in the US, People.ai has built a platform that ingests all the data that salespeople themselves generate over time, and then uses this to provide guidance to them to help source and close more deals, in a process called predictive sales. The US company, which has Lyft and Zoom among its clients, raised USD 60 million in funding two months ago.