Alibaba plans to acquire Israel startup Visualead’s tech and engineering team to establish a Tel Aviv R&D center.
The Chinese e-commerce company announced last month to invest more than $15 billion into a global research and development project called the DAMO Academy. DAMO standing for “discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook” is based on R&D and plans to establish labs in seven cities across the globe including Beijing and Hangzhou in China, San Mateo and Bellevue in the U.S., Moscow in Russia, Tel Aviv in Israel and Singapore.
The DAMO Academy aims to help the company reach its goal of two billion consumers globally and “increase technological collaboration worldwide”. The project is designed to hire 100 academic researchers and to create 100 million jobs across its e-commerce marketplace.
The Alibaba-backed Visualead developed a ‘dot less’ QR Code in 2015 that Alibaba was first to trial for its business in China. The Israel-based company founded in 2013 had received millions by Alibaba in an undisclosed round back in 2015.
According to sources familiar with the deal, the Chinese retailer intends to buy the computer vision technology from Visualead along with an engineering team in order to create a DAMO office in Tel Aviv.
The total valuation of the deal is not disclosed yet. Israeli media reported earlier that Alibaba will acquire the whole startup however sources denied the report saying that only selected tech assets are to be acquired by the e-commerce giant. The deal marks as Alibaba’s first acquisition (partial) in Israel.
Both the parties and their representatives did not respond to queries regarding the deal.
The Israeli startup which had raised more than $2.4 million from investors (including Alibaba’s undisclosed investment) claims that it had racked up over 500,000 companies across 200 plus countries for its technology.
Visualead’s situation resembles the fate of another Alibaba investment, Quixey. The Israeli startup focused on mobile search had raised more than $130 million from backers including Alibaba at a valuation of $500 million. However, the seven-year-old Quixey closed down earlier this year.