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Nikkei takes US$5m minority stake in SPH-backed AI startup DC Frontiers

Singapore

SINGAPORE artificial intelligence (AI) startup DC Frontiers has raised US$5 million from new strategic investor Nikkei Inc, the owner of the Financial Times (FT) and publisher of Nikkei Asian Review.

Nikkei announced on Monday that it had acquired a 14.9 per cent stake in DC Frontiers. The startup, which also counts Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) as an investor, will work with Nikkei and FT on the product development of scoutAsia, a data and news service launched by Nikkei and FT earlier this year.

DC Frontier's due-diligence portal Handshakes specialises in corporate monitoring and research for the purpose of corporate due-diligence. The startup's AI and machine-learning technologies are expected to improve the accuracy and efficiency of scoutAsia's news monitoring and corporate information search functions.

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Following Nikkei's investment, SPH remains the second-largest shareholder in the startup, after Daryl Neo, one of DC Frontier's co-founders. DC Frontier remains an associate company of SPH, the publisher of The Business Times.

The fresh funding will also help DC Frontiers expand its AI and other technological capabilities by establishing offshore research centres, and accelerate sales growth through the setting up of overseas sales offices to increase its presence in key markets, SPH said. This will allow DC Frontiers to develop new applications, which may help SPH deepen audience engagement and better serve its users.

SPH said it is unable to comment on the startup's valuation or financial performance since its founding in 2011.

SPH is partnering DC Frontiers to develop a content recommendation engine which uses semantic analysis and collaborative filtering algorithms to understand SPH's variety of content and its diverse base of users. It will automatically tailor relevant content to each reader's preferences.

The Handshakes portal provides services to financial and non-financial corporations and Asian government institutions. Its platform uses algorithms to map out relationships between companies and people in the corporate ecosystem.

Since SPH's initial investment in 2015, DC Frontiers has expanded its AI-powered English-language database beyond coverage of Singapore markets to include listed companies in Malaysia, China and Vietnam, giving real-time coverage of more than 90 million business entities in Asia.

SPH chief of digital business, Julian Tan, said: "As SPH continues to invest and push ahead in its digital transformation journey, we also look to extract synergies from our investments in the digital portfolio to capture the evolving needs of the business community."

The media and property group also said on Monday that it is exploring and reviewing investment opportunities that can diversify its business portfolio and make its revenue base more resilient.

Separately, Nikkei said that joint projects such as scoutAsia and Excedo, a business English education programme, are part of its strategic diversification of its business lines.

Nikkei is also increasing its focus on Asian tech news, and to this end has entered into business and capital tie-ups with media startups in China and India this year.