Recently, Song Nan, the executive director of Hongtai Fund, accepted an interview with Yiou.com and shared his professional insights on AI investment logic, project selection dimensions and other perspectives, as well as the AI ecological industry chain, development trends, and business from the perspective of an investor. Long-term observation and thinking of problems such as landing.
In 2016, Google's Alpha Dog defeated Li Shishi, and artificial intelligence (AI) became a popular buzzword. The news floated across the ocean, and Song Nan suddenly realized "AI is here!"
This is the sense of smell of the hunter.
Song Nan is a young and low-key "hunter" in the venture capital circle. Currently, he is the executive director of Hongtai Fund. Before joining the Hongtai Fund, he had experience in the US G51 Capital and other angel institutions in the country, and had also initiated entrepreneurial projects in the United States as a co-founder.
After the "artificial intelligence fever" spread to the domestic VC/PE industry, Song Nan quickly shot his target: Triangle Beast, a high-profile artificial intelligence startup at the time, this company has appeared in the reputation has not yet bankrupted Luo Yonghao at the press conference. As an investor, this is a good result.
Song Nan caught up with the wind and also helped Hongtai Fund to establish a foundation for investment judgment in the AI field. As one of China's early investment institutions, AI has become an important investment direction of Hongtai Fund, mainly covering industrial robots, security, intelligent voice and other fields. Among them, Song Nan promoted 9 projects by himself.
Now, three years have passed since he invested in his first AI project. Song Nan began to believe that the turning point of the AI industry has arrived.
AI will still be a tide affecting the future. "This wave of artificial intelligence technology probably appeared in 2012. Before 2014 and 2015, it was more in the laboratory. From 2015 and 2016, large-scale industrial landings began."
The facts confirmed his judgment. Over the past five years, China has produced a number of highly valued AI companies, but the commercialization of these AI unicorn companies has just begun. Starting in 2018, the development goals of AI companies have shifted from competing for academic and financing capabilities to commercial landing.
The ability to commercialize is the turning point in this industry. From an investor's perspective, his consideration of the project is very realistic: "This industry (AI) is an industry that looks at the results. It will be eliminated when you can't keep up."
1 "Some investors' confidence is gone"
In recent years, as the influx of capital has become more and more active, it has accelerated the speed at which artificial intelligence applications have landed. Song Nan admitted that due to the long development cycle and the difficulty of clarifying the prospects for commercial applications, the venture of capital requires a sufficient risk-taking spirit.
At this time, the criteria for institutions to choose projects and a complete and precise investment logic become even more important. "Chinese people are not very interested in things that can't be turned into money immediately. I think AI will become a smaller and smaller investment category from 2019. The main reason is that some investors have lost their confidence." Song Nan said.
In the view of some investors, the amount and amount of financing in the artificial intelligence industry will fall this year and will be concentrated on the head companies. Except for them, most artificial intelligence companies will not be too much in 2019 Better.
In China, although artificial intelligence is greatly welcomed and valued at the capital level and the government level, the level of trust in machines is still relatively limited at the regulatory, legal, and public acceptance levels. "Artificial intelligence is about to take the low-end duplication The fear of "work positions" is increasing, and the occasional news of "unmanned cars causing car accidents" reinforces this sense of distrust.
Although the concept of artificial intelligence is hot, companies and governments do not have a deep understanding of the development of the industry, and they generally overestimate and eager to realize their short-term commercial value, which all extend the realization cycle of the artificial intelligence commercial value. "Investors will always invest in change and innovation. They will always move forward with the development of science and technology. AI this year may do 5G next year." Song Nan said.
Some "continuous entrepreneurs" who have nothing to do with artificial intelligence are in the form of artificial intelligence experts, financing under the banner of "AI+" or "+AI". Regardless of whether the project is related to artificial intelligence, first get the venture capital money.
Previously, there were many companies pursuing hot spots, and many projects that were not worth investing poured into the AI field, but in Song Nan's view, this is a good time to screen high-quality companies. Some companies with no ability have been phased out and are truly valuable companies. Highlighting.
For the AI industry, Hongtai Fund mainly has two major investment strategies. The first is the investment and application of AI+ vertical areas. The second is investment technology and services. "A good team is one of the factors of success. The entrepreneur's own business ability is very important. Secondly, it is best to have customers and the technology has been verified in the application."
The investment case is the best evidence of these ideas. For example, in the vertical field, Hongtai Fund has invested in AI Speech Company Triangle Beast: a system-level platform based on core technologies such as NLP technology, semantic understanding, and autonomous learning. This will enable the majority of B-end companies to quickly and cost-effectively obtain the ability to interact intelligently and provide users of B-end companies with a more intelligent interactive experience.
According to Song Nan, there are two types of entrepreneurs focusing on the AI field: one is a scientist entrepreneur, and the other is an entrepreneur with business resources. To further illustrate, he made an analogy: "AI entrepreneurs are like arts and sciences in the college entrance examination. The liberal arts are really good at mathematics students, and the science students are really good at Chinese language and English students."
"We see the same thing in the project now. Scientist entrepreneurship depends on his business ability and management ability. Those who have channels or sales ability to start a business depend on whether product development and technology work."
Song Nan introduced that when choosing the AI project, Hongtai Fund mainly looks at three dimensions: the first core is people, the past resume and his future scalability. The second is the team's business service capabilities. The third is technology. "The technical height of the founding team determines the technical height of the entire company."
In addition to the above three points, the most important thing is to judge whether the team has the ability to land on the ground, is to look at the business model. For investors, at the current stage of investing in artificial intelligence-related companies, whether they can achieve commercialization has become one of their important considerations.
2 How Artificial Intelligence Lands
How can the current AI startups form their own barriers? Song Nan believes that the AI industry is an absolute Matthew effect. To truly establish your own barriers, you must find ways to become the head in this industry.
Song Nan believes that there is a certain bubble in AI startups at present, and it is difficult for some To B businesses to do deep. "There are more opportunities for large companies. Traditional companies will acquire some startups, such as the acquisition of various technological aspects of AI for mobile phones. There are more opportunities for this."
Taking security as an example, before the advent of AI, the entire security monitoring industry only completed the acquisition, transmission and storage links, and the final analysis must be completed by humans. The emergence of AI has changed all this. The analysis can be done by computer, so that the business process will change, bringing greater closed-loop value to the entire industry.
The first scene of AI vision in China is security. Almost all AI vision companies cut into this field first. A large number of companies' "first pot of gold" comes from government procurement.
It is understood that the last outbreak of the security market was about ten years ago, with camera hardware companies represented by Hikvision and Dahua shares. After fierce market competition, hardware manufacturers have opened the national public safety market.
But the public safety department found in actual use that the camera simply collected the data, but could not use big data to quickly process and solve more problems. Emerging AI vision companies saw this opportunity and delved into this. As a result, mathematicians and AI experts who are based on algorithmic models have met hardware vendors who are better at business and channels.
In just three years, the security market seems to have been redefined. The cameras that collect video data, the amount and importance of gold began to give way to the Internet of Things and AI technologies that connect and analyze data.
In addition to security, in terms of future trends, Song Nan believes that financial, medical, autonomous driving, e-commerce, consumer hardware and other scenarios have also begun to tap the potential demand for AI vision. But the challenge to the commercialization capabilities of AI companies will be more severe.
3 Concealed opportunities also create bubbles
Speaking of the future, Song Nan made no secret of his “enthusiasm” for AIoT, and the investment reason given was straightforward: “Urban intelligence and networking are a certain thing: such as smart door locks, two or three in the future It is very likely that a listed company will be born in 2015."
The demand for certainty comes from the cyclical ups and downs of the venture capital industry on the one hand, and from the AI industry’s investment to be more disciplined and rational on the other.
In May this year, the Data Center of the China Institute of Information and Communications released the "Global Artificial Intelligence Industry Data Report (2019Q1)". The report shows that in the first quarter of 2019, the global scale of artificial intelligence financing was US$12.6 billion, a decrease of 7.3% from the previous month; the number of financing reached 310, accounting for 29.7% of the total global financing. Among them, the amount of financing in the field of artificial intelligence in China is 3 billion US dollars, accounting for 23.5% of the total global financing, ranking second in the world, second only to the United States.
Song Nan pointed out that from the perspective of venture capital, the United States is oriented towards investment in the whole industry. The investment field covers the basic layer, technical layer and application layer, while Chinese enterprises that receive financing are mainly concentrated in the application layer.
Public information shows that there are nine major development hotspots in the artificial intelligence industry, namely chips, natural language processing, speech recognition, machine learning applications, computer vision and images, technology platforms, intelligent drones, intelligent robots, and autonomous driving.
The entire industry layout of the United States, while China has only made some breakthroughs. Among them, the top three areas of Chinese AI startups are: 146 computer vision and images, 125 intelligent robots and 92 natural language processing.
Under the sound of singing, there is also a calm voice that the word artificial intelligence appears in the public more and more frequently, but from the perspective of comprehensive technology evolution and application, there will be no explosive development, but it must be vigilant. Bubbles appear.
Regarding bubbles, Song Nan said that there will always be some bubbles in the hottest things. "The core of the problem is whether AI has changed everyone's lives to a certain extent, or whether it has brought changes to a certain extent. I think The answer is self-evident. We are willing to invest in companies with core technology and basic technology, and of course we will also pay attention to commercial applications."