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Lenovo is launching a new $500 million startup fund

TechCrunch TechCrunch 6/05/2016 Jon Russell

Chinese tech giant Lenovo is investing $500 million in startups after it announced a new fund.

Unlike other corporates, Lenovo has a history of making deft investments. Its first fund, created in 2010 and $100 million in size, includes Israeli facial recognition startup Face++, publicly listed Chinese firm iDreamsky and biometrics specialist Nok Nok Labs from the U.S. among its 40-plus company portfolio.

With its second fund, Lenovo said it is looking to back companies with synergies to its businesses and, in particular, those in the cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, robots and other Internet services spaces.

Beyond backing upcoming companies, Lenovo has also launched an incubator program for its own businesses. In the same spirit as Baidu, which recently spun out its video and student learning services, Lenovo is pushing a “subsidiary incubation” program which allows some of its units to go independent, raise funding from third-party investors and tap into the new Lenovo Capital and Incubator Group (LCIG).

Lenovo said that SHAREit, its file-sharing application, Lenovo Cloud, and Lenovo Connect as some of the first to benefit from going independent as a subsidiary, and it has others planned in the near future.

“Technology breakthroughs are changing the way all of us live today. With our long-industry history and experience of driving and developing core innovations, we’re well-prepared to shape the future of game-changing technologies through funding and nurturing start-ups and bringing incubator projects to market,” Lenovo CTO He Zhiqiang said in a statement.

Lenovo’s new fund and startup push come at a time when the company is restructuring after posting its first loss last year amid a challenging business environment.

While it remains the top PC seller worldwide, the market is shrinking which has impacted Lenovo’s sales. Analyst firm IDC reported that Lenovo grew its marketshare from 19.4 percent in Q1 2015 to 20.1 percent in Q1 2016, but its actual shipment numbers fell by 8.5 percent over that same one year period.

Lenovo is also struggling in the smartphone space. Last month, IDC found that the company had fallen from the world’s top five phone makers as its core Chinese market continues to contract.

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