The visionary founder of SenseTime, Tang Xiao’ou, Passes Away at 55

In this post:

  • SenseTime founder Tang Xiao’ou dies at 55, leaving the company facing financial challenges and allegations of revenue inflation.
  • Post-IPO, SenseTime’s value dropped significantly, with shares plunging nearly 80% due to slowing growth and stake reductions by major backers like Alibaba and SoftBank.
  • Grizzly Research’s allegations of revenue inflation through round-tripping were denied by SenseTime, contributing to a more than 40% stock drop in 2023.

Tang Xiao’ou, the pioneering founder of the renowned artificial intelligence company SenseTime, has passed away at the age of 55. SenseTime confirmed his demise in a statement released on Saturday, citing an unspecified illness as the cause of death.

A legacy of innovation

Tang, a distinguished information engineering professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, earned his Ph.D. in computer vision from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. His entrepreneurial journey began in 2014 when he co-founded SenseTime with two of his Ph.D. students, Xu Li and Xu Bing. Tang played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s innovation and research strategies, fostering collaborations with universities and academic institutions.

Rise and fall in wealth

As a testament to his entrepreneurial success, Tang debuted on Hong Kong’s 50 Richest list in 2022 at No. 16 with a net worth of $6 billion. However, the latest ranking in February 2023 placed him at No. 33, reflecting a significant decrease to $2.5 billion. His fortune was entirely tied to the value of SenseTime shares.

Sensetime’s challenges and recent struggles

SenseTime faced adversity throughout its nearly decade-long existence. In 2019, the company landed on the U.S. trade blacklist, resulting in limitations on accessing American supplies and technology. The challenges persisted in 2021 when the U.S. included SenseTime on an investment blacklist just before its initial public offering.

Despite a successful IPO in December 2021, SenseTime encountered a downturn in investor confidence due to slower growth prospects. Revenues for the first half of 2023 increased by a modest 1.3% year-on-year, reaching 1.4 billion yuan ($202 million), a stark contrast to the nearly 100% growth witnessed in previous years. Concurrently, losses amounted to $443.8 million, exacerbated by reduced revenues from existing clients and the trimming of stakes by early backers Alibaba and SoftBank.

Allegations and market response

SenseTime recently faced allegations from U.S.-based Grizzly Research, accusing the company of inflating revenues through a scheme known as round-tripping. This alleged practice involved SenseTime purportedly paying other companies to purchase its products, artificially boosting reported revenues. In response, SenseTime categorically dismissed the claims, stating in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange that the report was “without merit” and contained “unfounded allegations and misleading conclusions and interpretations.”

The market responded negatively to these developments, with SenseTime’s stock plummeting more than 40% since the beginning of the year and nearly 80% since its IPO.

Future uncertainties for sensetime

The passing of Tang Xiao’ou raises questions about the future trajectory of SenseTime. As the company grapples with regulatory challenges, diminished investor confidence, and allegations impacting its market standing, a key focus will be on how SenseTime navigates these uncertainties.

Tang Xiao’ou’s legacy extends beyond his role as a billionaire entrepreneur; he leaves behind a company that has played a pivotal role in advancing artificial intelligence. SenseTime’s journey, marked by triumphs and tribulations, underscores the complexities of the tech industry. As the company confronts challenges on multiple fronts, the business world will keenly observe how it adapts and innovates in the absence of its visionary founder.

In the wake of Tang Xiao’ou’s untimely demise, the tech community mourns the loss of a leader whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the landscape of artificial intelligence. SenseTime faces a challenging road ahead, navigating both the shifting dynamics of the industry and the repercussions of recent setbacks.

In the wake of Tang Xiao’ou’s passing, a thought-provoking question arises: What if technology could resurrect this visionary professor? Delve into the concept of “resurrection” in our related news item here to contemplate the potential impact on SenseTime’s future.

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