As turbulent as 2017 was for Uber, 2018 looks set to start off even worse for the maligned company, as China’s Didi Chuxing says it raised over $4 billion from SoftBank Group in yet another round of funding. The large injection of cash makes Didi the world’s second-largest startup, with a valuation of $56 billion, and over $12 billion in cash.
The extra funding comes on the heels of a $5.5 billion investment round earlier this year. It will serve as a catalyst for Didi’s global expansion ambitions, and will likely also go towards emerging technology development like AI and self-driving vehicles.
Inside China, Didi Chuxing holds a dominant position in the ride-sharing space, having used a 2016 billion-dollar investment by Apple to drive Uber completely out of the country. While the ten-figure deals by Apple and Softbank grab the most headline space, the company’s list of investors reveals a virtual who’s who that includes the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, Alibaba, and Tencent Holdings, to name a few.
Even before the latest funding, Didi unveiled plans to go head-to-head with Uber in Mexico City in 2018. Behind only Rio de Jeneiro and Sao Paulo, Mexico City ranks as Uber’s third largest market. While this is Didi’s first direct confrontation of Uber beyond the Chinese mainland, it has been investing its money on Uber rivals like Lyft, and comparable operations in Brazil, India, Singapore, and the Middle East.
On the technology front, Didi opened an artificial intelligence laboratory in Silicon Valley earlier this year. The lab’s purpose is to leverage the company’s glut of data, compiled from over 450 million users. As it works to use the date to optimize route designs, the company says it also plans to build a network of charging stations for electric cars in tandem with self-driving technologies.
In a statement, it said, “Didi plans to scale up investments in AI talent and technologies, to further build up its intelligent driving and smart transportation capabilities.”