AI Titan SenseTime’s Cofounder, Hong Kong’s Professor Tang, Dies at 55

Hong Kong billionaire and AI pioneer Professor Tang Xiao’ou, co-founder of SenseTime, has passed away at the age of 55, following an unspecified illness. Tang also taught information engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Prior to his death, Tang had amassed a net worth of $1.1 billion, in large part due to his stake in SenseTime.

  • Tang co-founded AI company SenseTime in 2014, where he served as an executive director and oversaw innovation and research strategies
  • His first appearance on Forbes’ Hong Kong’s 50 Richest list was in 2022, when he ranked No. 16 with a net worth of $6 billion. He was listed at No. 33 with a net worth of $2.5 billion in the latest rankings
  • The AI company went public in 2021, but has faced challenges including decelerating growth, accusations of inflating revenues, and being added to a U.S. trade blacklist.

Tang was instrumental in the foundation of SenseTime, one of the leading AI firms in China. His role at the company was particularly focused on driving partnerships with universities and other academic institutions. The day-to-day running of the business was largely overseen by Xu Li, the 41-year-old chairman and CEO, and former student of Tang.

In recent times, SenseTime has struggled, with waning investor enthusiasm and slower than expected growth rates. The company was listed on the US trade blacklist in 2019, limiting its access to US supplies and tech. This, along with slowdowns in areas like the auto sector and government departments, has contributed to slowed growth, with revenues in 2023 growing just 1.3% year-on-year.

Accusations that the company inflated its revenues using a scheme called round-tripping have also caused trouble for the company, although these accusations were firmly denied by SenseTime. The company’s stock has taken a hit, plunging more than 40% this year and nearly 80% since its IPO.

These troubles, coupled with Tang’s passing, present significant challenges for SenseTime going forward. Nevertheless, Tang’s influence and contribution to the field of AI will long be remembered.