Hong Kong Billionaire Tang Xiao ou Dies At 55 : Hong Kong, December 17, 2023 — The tech world mourns the loss of Professor Tang Xiao’ou, a visionary entrepreneur and cofounder of the Hong Kong-listed artificial intelligence giant SenseTime. The 55-year-old billionaire, also an esteemed information engineering professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, passed away late on Friday due to an unspecified illness, as announced by SenseTime in an official statement on Saturday.
At the time of his demise, Professor Tang Xiao’ou possessed a net worth of $1.1 billion, according to Forbes’ real-time wealth tracker. This marked a significant dip from his previous standings, as he debuted on Hong Kong’s 50 Richest list in 2022 at No. 16, boasting a net worth of $6 billion. In the latest rankings released in February, Tang found himself at No. 33, with a net worth of $2.5 billion. Notably, his entire fortune was intricately tied to the value of his shares in SenseTime.
A luminary in the field of computer vision, Tang earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. Subsequently, he became a distinguished professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he imparted knowledge and inspired countless students. In 2014, he embarked on a groundbreaking journey by co-founding SenseTime with two of his Ph.D. students, Xu Li and Xu Bing.
The SenseTime Legacy : Hong Kong Billionaire Tang Xiao ou Dies At 55
SenseTime, headquartered in Shanghai, quickly rose to prominence under Tang’s leadership. As the visionary behind innovation and research strategies, Tang played a pivotal role in establishing partnerships with universities and academic institutions, solidifying SenseTime’s position as a global AI giant.
Despite its undeniable success, SenseTime faced numerous challenges throughout its existence. In 2019, the company was added to a U.S. trade blacklist, leading to restrictions in accessing American supplies and technology. The situation escalated in 2021 when the U.S. placed SenseTime on an investment blacklist, just before its public offering. The company’s trajectory was marked by highs and lows, with its initial public offering in December 2021 met with enthusiasm, only to see a subsequent decline in investor confidence.
Facing Headwinds in Recent Years
SenseTime’s recent financial performance reflects the turbulent times the company has endured. In the first half of 2023, its revenues grew by a mere 1.3% year-on-year to 1.4 billion yuan ($202 million). This is a stark contrast to the almost 100% growth witnessed just a couple of years ago. Losses for the same period stood at $443.8 million, exacerbated by fair value changes of certain preferred shares and financial liabilities.
The company, once a darling of investors, encountered headwinds as it struggled to maintain its growth momentum. Revenues from existing clients, particularly in the auto sector and government-related departments, witnessed a significant decline. Notably, early backers such as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Japanese tech investment giant SoftBank began trimming their stakes. SenseTime’s stock faced further turmoil when a U.S.-based short seller, Grizzly Research, alleged in a November report that the company engaged in inflating revenues through a scheme called round-tripping.
SenseTime’s Response and Future Outlook
In response to the allegations, SenseTime vehemently defended itself, labeling the report as “without merit” and containing “unfounded allegations and misleading conclusions and interpretations.” Despite the company’s efforts to salvage its reputation, its stock witnessed a decline of over 40% in the current year and a staggering 80% since its IPO.
The future of SenseTime now stands at a crossroads, navigating through challenges in the rapidly evolving AI landscape. The legacy left behind by Professor Tang Xiao’ou, a pioneer in the field, will undoubtedly cast a long shadow over the company’s trajectory. As the tech world bids farewell to a visionary leader, the story of SenseTime serves as a reminder of the volatile nature of the tech industry, where innovation and success can quickly turn into skepticism and scrutiny.
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