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China’s OpenAI challenger Zhipu AI gets Meituan funding

Chinese AI startup, Zhipu AI, backed by Meituan, offers promising competition to OpenAI. This move aligns with Meituan's strategic investment in AI capabilities.

Zhipu AI, China's Answer to OpenAI, Gains Meituan Support

Zhipu AI, an emerging Chinese rival to OpenAI, has secured an investment from Meituan, China's food delivery titan, currently valued at approximately $100 billion.

Business filings reveal that a subsidiary of Meituan recently bought a 10% stake in a Zhipu AI affiliate, according to local media. The specifics of the funding remain undisclosed, with Zhipu AI only revealing that it amassed "hundreds of million yuan" (with $1 = 7.23 yuan) in a Series B round last September. Prominent investors include Qiming Venture Partners, Legend Capital, and Tsinghua Holdings.

Zhipu AI is among several Chinese enterprises striving to create large language models (LLMs) that can compete with their Western counterparts. The startup, a spin-off from China's esteemed Tsinghua University, was established in 2019 under the leadership of Tang Jie, a professor in the university's Department of Computer Science and Technology.

The company recently open-sourced its bilingual (Chinese and English) conversational AI model, ChatGLM-6B, trained on six billion parameters. This model can execute inferences on a single consumer-grade graphics card, significantly reducing the cost of running an LLM. The startup has also released a more resilient, general-purpose version, the GLM-130B, trained on 130 billion parameters. ChatGLM, Zhipu's user-facing chatbot app, is currently in the close beta phase, primarily targeted at academic and industry players.

Meituan's investment in Zhipu AI is intriguingly timed, coming just three weeks after the internet behemoth announced its acquisition of Light Years Beyond, another notable LLM player in China, for a substantial $234 million. This investment followed the resignation of Light Years Beyond's founder, Wang Huiwen, who is also the billionaire co-founder of Meituan, due to health reasons.

These investments are poised to give Meituan's AI capabilities a significant talent boost. In return, the invested AI firms stand to gain access to Meituan's broad user base of 450 million, who use the platform for ordering food, buying groceries, or booking hotels.