After setting up a $300 million fund to invest in Israeli tech firms, a member of the China-based conglomerate Kuang-Chi Group has announced its second investment in Israel, leading a “multi-million dollar” funding round in Beyond Verbal Communications Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based company that analyzes emotions based on vocal intonations.
“Israel is a main part of our global investment strategy,” Dr. Zhang Yangyang, the co-chief executive officer of KuangChi Science Ltd. said in an interview while on a visit to Tel Aviv this week, as he met with additional startup companies and other members of the local industry and government. “We expect more investments to be announced in Israel in the very near future.”
Kuang-Chi’s $300 million GCI Fund & InCubator, that was launched in May this year, has already invested $20 million in Herzliya, Israel-based eyeSight Technologies, a machine vision company.
The Chinese company’s investment of $3 million brings the total raised since Beyond Verbal’s founding in 2012 to $10 million, Kuang-Chi said.
The group seeks investments in technologically disruptive, early to mid-stage Israeli and global companies in robotics, machine vision, aviation, and smart-cities technology, Zhang said. The Tel Aviv based emotions analytics company Beyond Verbal fits this profile, he said.
“We want to get access to a wide variety of technologies and integrate them, in order to provide our customers a full solution,” Zhang said. “We are not only financial investors. We work together with our companies and help them grow, by enabling them to deploy and mass-manufacture their product.”
Beyond Verbal, founded by chief executive Yuval Mor and Chief Science Officer Dr. Yoram Levanon, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to teach computers how we feel, and to react accordingly. It enables the decoding of emotions, well-being and health through analyzing the human voice, and then allows voice-powered devices, applications and solutions to interact with us on that emotional level, just as humans do.
“The voice contains information about your emotional state,” said Dorian Barak, the managing partner at Indigo Global, Kuang-Chi’s partner in Israel. “This technology can change the way robots and virtual assistants interact with humans.”
Beyond Verbal’s patented technology was developed based on ongoing research into the science of emotions that started in 1995. Throughout the years they have collected more than 2.5 million emotion-tagged voices in more than 40 languages and secured their technology with multiple patents. The company’s emotions analytics technology has numerous applications, from improving call center effectiveness to tracking health conditions and even improving relationships — by helping you decipher your partner’s tone of voice — Beyond Verbal said in a video on its website.
“The company’s technology is both innovative and highly advanced, with limitless potential,” Dr. Ruopeng Liu, chairman of Kuang-Chi, said. “This new partnership is bound to result in the development of new and exciting technologies with benefits in a variety of fields from health care to artificial intelligence.”
Israeli technology funds Winnovation and Singulariteam also participated in the round, which will be used to finance continued R&D and commercialization of Beyond Verbal’s health and emotions understanding applications, the statement said.
Founded in 2010 by five Chinese scientists who returned to China after earning advanced degrees at Duke, Oxford, and Cambridge universities, Kuang-Chi, has turned into a global conglomerate with operations in China, North America, Europe, Africa and Australia. The company, which is traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange, has applied for more than 3,000 patents worldwide in the areas of metamaterials, photonics, satellite technology, aviation, and robotics in the past five years.
Kuang-Chi belongs to that new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs who have become the nation’s technology pioneers, Indigo’s Barak said in the interview. “China sees Israel as a complementary partner: they have the market and the size, we can give them the resourcefulness, creativity and speed.”
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