BrandArena: Meituan invests in China's promising OpenAI rival Zhipu AI

Thursday, 20 July 2023

Meituan invests in China's promising OpenAI rival Zhipu AI

Meituan, the country's famous food delivery business, has invested in Zhipu AI, a promising opponent to OpenAI, in a move that highlights China's developing AI environment and its aim to compete on the world stage. The investment is a deliberate move to strengthen Meituan's AI capabilities and capitalise on the platform's broad reach while establishing Zhipu AI as a powerful competitor in the battle to develop advanced large language models (LLMs).

Zhipu AI, a spin-off from Tsinghua University, has been making significant strides in the AI domain since its inception in 2019. Led by Professor Tang Jie from Tsinghua’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, the startup has attracted noteworthy investors, including Qiming Venture Partners, Legend Capital, and Tsinghua Holdings, who participated in a successful Series B funding round last September.

The company’s recent achievements include the open-sourcing of its bilingual (Chinese and English) conversational AI model, ChatGLM-6B. With an impressive capacity of six billion parameters, the model claims the ability to perform inferences on a single consumer-grade graphics card, presenting a cost-effective alternative for running LLMs. Furthermore, Zhipu AI has previously released the GLM-130B, a more robust and versatile variant trained on an astounding 130 billion parameters.

With a market cap of approximately $100 billion, Meituan is a dominant force in China’s food delivery and on-demand services sector. The company’s investment in Zhipu AI, alongside its recent acquisition of another LLM player, Light Years Beyond, for $234 million, indicates a strong commitment to expand its AI capabilities and strengthen its foothold in the technology sector.

While the specific amount of funding from Meituan remains undisclosed, the move is expected to provide the food delivery giant with a significant talent boost in AI research and development. Meituan’s vast user base of 450 million consumers, who frequently utilize the platform for various services, presents a rich source of data that can be leveraged to enhance the AI startup’s language models and other AI-driven initiatives.

China has become a hotbed for LLM development, with several companies vying to create models that rival Western counterparts. Zhipu AI’s strategic positioning as an academic spin-off from one of China’s prestigious universities has given it a competitive edge. However, it faces competition from other Chinese tech giants, such as OpenAI challenger, Light Years Beyond, which Meituan also recently acquired.

To understand the significance of these investments and the impact on Meituan’s and Zhipu AI’s AI capabilities, let’s compare some key figures:

Meituan’s strategic investments in Zhipu AI and Light Years Beyond signify a concerted effort by the Chinese tech giant to establish itself as a significant player in the global AI arena. With the AI race in full swing, China’s tech ecosystem is actively positioning itself as a frontrunner, aiming to revolutionize various sectors through advancements in large language models.

Advanced LLMs have a wide range of possible applications, from customer service and virtual assistants to content generation and language translation. As Zhipu AI and Light Years Beyond continue to innovate and grow their R&D efforts, the repercussions will reach beyond China's boundaries, influencing the global AI scene.

Meituan's investments in Zhipu AI and Light Years Beyond reflect China's AI industry's dynamic and fiercely competitive nature. These strategic measures not only solidify Meituan's position as a tech powerhouse but also contribute to China's expanding influence in the global AI environment, potentially benefiting both consumers and enterprises. South African readers may see how these developments affect the future of technology as the AI race continues to evolve.

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