Facial Recognition Unicorn Megvii Plans to Go Public

One of the most successful AI startups in China, Megvii plans to launch an IPO in Hong Kong

26.08.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Megvii
Photo by Megvii

Megvii, one the world leaders in facial recognition and artificial intelligence technologies, has filed an initial public offering (IPO) on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Facial recognition technology has been greatly evolving over the past few years, with China aiming to amass the largest facial database in the world.

Founded by three Tsinghua University graduates in 2011—Yin Qi, Yang Mu and Tang Wenbin—Megvii has become one of the country’s top artificial intelligence entreprises. Some of its clients include Alibaba, Ant Financial, Lenovo, China Mobile, Meitu and the Chinese government.

The Beijing-based unicorn is known worldwide for its highly acclaimed Face++ facial recognition platform. According to Forbes, Face ++ can detect faces, analyse over 100 data points on the face and confirm someone’s identity with a high degree of accuracy.

The technology is also used for human body detection—including skeleton detection and body outlining—image recognition and image beatify, a type of face merging technology.

Face++ is also an open source platform, meaning that any developer can create an app using its algorithms. With over 300,000 developers using the technology across 150 countries, Face++ has become the most extensive facial recognition platform in the world.

While it is impressive to hear that Megvii has beat Google, Microsoft and Facebook in artificial intelligence competitions, the Chinese company believes in focusing on the practical, real-world applications of its technology. According to Li Haoran, manager of MEGVII’s cloud services, about 70 percent of Android apps use Megvii’s technologies, such as social and dating apps.

“When speaking to clients, we found it is not always so helpful to emphasize how cutting-edge our technology is, but rather pay more attention to their actual problems over the course of conducting their businesses,” he told EqualOcean in 2018. “The more feedback we collect from our clients, the more advanced features we can update accordingly and the more competitive advantages we can establish compared to similar products in the market.”

The company has not yet released the pricing of its shares or the timeline of the IPO. While Alibaba has postponed its listing due to the protests in the city, Megvii has stated its confidence in the Hone Kong market.

According to CNBC, Megvii raised $750 million in a funding round earlier this year, increasing its valuation to about $4 billion. Sensetime, its closest competition, is currently worth about $4.5 billion.

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