SINGAPORE - While other firms have had to resort to mass layoffs amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese tech company Black Sesame Technologies plans to more than double its headcount in Singapore within 11/2 years.
The artificial intelligence (AI) and automotive chip developer is actively recruiting AI talent and hopes to increase the number of employees from 20 now to 50 by the end of next year, said the firm's Singapore general manager Xu Jin.
Speaking to The Straits Times in a video call, Mr Xu added that the focus will be on hiring Singaporeans and permanent residents for its research and development (R&D) centre here - the company's only one outside of the United States.
"Singapore has a lot of talent we can tap to grow our deep-tech and machine-learning competencies," he said.
The firm's chief executive Johnson Shan said, during the same call, that the firm is mostly looking for engineers and researchers with skills in writing image processing algorithms.
He did not rule out the possibility of hiring fresh graduates and training them, if they lack the work experience.
"We plan to build a big office here. Singapore has a vibrant innovation environment, and the Government is very supportive of tech start-ups like ours. I believe it will be beneficial for the growth of our R&D capabilities," said Mr Shan.
He added that the company, which is located in one-north, is committing between $50 million and $100 million over the next five years to expand operations here.
In June, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in a televised speech that the Government was setting aside more than $20 billion to support basic and applied research in high-impact areas such as AI.
Black Sesame, which raised US$100 million (S$137 million) in its Series B financing round last year, is known for its visual perception solutions used for autonomous driving and advanced driver-assistance systems. For example, it has developed in-vehicle monitoring systems with facial recognition capabilities, which can monitor driver fatigue and poor driving behaviour.
In June, the company released automotive chips that can support levels three and above of autonomous driving. Level three means that vehicles can make informed decisions but still require human overrides, while level four vehicles can operate in self-driving mode within limited areas.