AI start-up ViSenze raises US$20m in Series C funding

SINGAPORE - ViSenze, a start-up that sells artificial intelligence (AI) technology to boost e-commerce, has raised US$20 million (S$27 million) in Series C funding. The funding round was co-led by venture capital firm Gobi Partners and venture investor Sonae IM.

Other participants in the funding round include new investors Tembusu ICT Fund, 31Ventures Global Innovation Fund and Impossible Ventures, as well as existing investors Rakuten Ventures, WI Harper Group, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Ventures, Raffles Venture Partners, Enspire Capital and UOB Venture Management. SPH is the publisher of The Straits Times.

Gobi Partners is a venture capital firm focusing on innovative technologies in China, Hong Kong, and South-east Asia. Sonae IM is a European-based corporate venture investor specialising in retail and telco tech as well as cyber security.

ViSenze sells AI technology to consumer brands so that their shoppers can replace keyword searches on products with digital images, in effect driving shopping recommendations with image data.

Its proprietary image recognition technology makes online products more searchable through product features such as style and occasion, as well as visual attributes such as colours and patterns. The technology is also used by major brands for visual trend analytics, social insights, price discovery, and competitive strategising.

ViSenze said its "platform solutions" have linked over 400 million products from more than 800 major merchants and retailers on its global affiliate network. Customers include Rakuten, ASOS, Urban Outfitters and Zalora.

The latest funding round will allow ViSenze to further invest in working with smartphone manufacturers, as well as with consumer and social communication applications. It already has partnerships with phone-makers such as Samsung, LG and Huawei.

ViSenze, which was founded in 2012, said it has a "steady annual revenue growth rate" of more than 200 per cent. Employee headcount has also tripled over the last three years with its current staff count at about 80 people. ViSenze has offices in Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

In a press statement on Tuesday, Mr Dan Chong, managing director of Gobi Partners, said: "The e-commerce markets across the world continue to expand and shoppers are becoming more mobile-centric. As ViSenze helps their clients to capture this group of consumers and adapt to their shopping behaviour, the opportunity to scale its business significantly presents itself."

Sonae IM chief executive Eduardo Piedade said: "With more retailers and brands offering visual search capabilities as an option for consumers to accelerate the time to purchase and improve the buying experience, we see the technology continuing to shape the future of retail.

"Hence, after having thoroughly analysed this space, we were able to invest in the leading player, which will enable us to take part in this modern shopping era that is heavily driven by visual inspiration."

ViSenze previously raised a US$10.5 million Series B round in 2016. The company's total funding now stands at US$34.5 million.