How soon can a box of much-needed medicines and takeaways be delivered to the Shenzhen epidemic community? If you use Meituan drones for delivery, the answer is that it can be delivered to your door in ten minutes after placing an order with one click.
This is not a virtual scene, but a real video from Meituan’s drone appearance at a communication meeting. This is also the first time Meituan has disclosed its self-developed urban low-altitude logistics model. On July 8, the 2021 World Artificial Intelligence Conference opened, and the Meituan drone made its debut.
During the conference, Meituan also signed a cooperation agreement with Jinshan District, Shanghai. The two parties will jointly promote the establishment of the country’s first urban low-altitude logistics operation demonstration center in Jinshan District. Xia Huaxia, Vice President of Meituan and President of the Smart Transportation Department, said: “In addition to self-research, Meituan also uses open platform cooperation and investment in ecological layout to establish an unmanned distribution ecological map.”
In addition to the above-mentioned self-developed muscles, after entering 2020, Meituan’s investment in the field of technology has begun to accelerate. After entering 2020, Meituan’s investment in the technology field began to accelerate. In July of that year, Meituan exclusively invested in the B round of financing of indoor distribution robot company PUDUTECH, with an amount of over 100 million yuan; in September of the same year, Meituan and Tencent jointly invested in Gaoxian Robot, a developer of intelligent cleaning robots, with a large investment scale In December, Meituan also participated in more than $100 million in Series B financing from Flexiv, a general-purpose intelligent robot company.
Since the beginning of this year, Meituan’s investment speed has not slowed down: In January, it invested in Yinghe Robot, a platform-based robot; in February, it participated in the autonomous driving start-up company Maomo Zhixing; in April, it led the investment in the industrial robot company Mecamand; in June, it led the investment Lidar maker Hesai Technology. In July, Meituan expanded its investment field again, and its affiliates and industrial fund Meituan Longzhu completed their investment in Aixin Technology, indicating that Meituan has begun to deploy in the semiconductor field.
Such intensive investment in hard technology is inseparable from Meituan founder Wang Xing’s judgment on industry trends, technological development trends and user needs. In fact, Robotics is a keyword that Wang Xing believes can accurately describe artificial intelligence robots, and it was also frequently mentioned by him in his previous earnings conference calls.
“In the second half of 2020, we invested in some start-up companies, all of which have one thing in common in their names, they all contain ‘Robotics’, which is very important to us, robots mean intelligent hardware. I am more optimistic about robots in the service industry Technology. With the continuous advancement and development of technology and robots, we have huge potential to improve efficiency, reduce costs and create a better experience for customers.” Wang Xing said at the Meituan’s first quarter earnings conference this year.
What kind of technology story does Meituan want to tell with the attitude of “self-research and exploration + investment in the future”?
Meituan’s technology road behind the first drone show
This year, Meituan’s new-generation self-developed L4-level self-driving unmanned delivery vehicle Magic Bag 20 was officially launched in Shunyi, Beijing. It is reported that the Magic Bag 20 has L4-level autonomous driving capability, which can adapt to the needs of 24-hour operation, and the cruising mileage on urban roads reaches 120km.
Xia Huaxia, the chief scientist of Meituan, revealed that in the next three to five years, the total cost of unmanned delivery vehicles and autonomous driving software and hardware systems will be controlled within 150,000 yuan. Meituan’s unmanned delivery is expected to start in Shanghai and Shenzhen this year.
It is reported that Meituan launched the exploration of drone delivery scenarios in 2017, and is committed to building a low-altitude logistics network of 3 kilometers and 15 minutes. At present, the research and development of autonomous flying drones, automated airports and drone dispatching systems has been initially completed. More than 90% of the components of the core system are independently developed by Meituan.
At the beginning of this year, Meituan drones have completed the first order distribution task for real users in Shenzhen, and in the subsequent Shenzhen epidemic, they established an “air channel” for urban material transportation in Nanshan District, Shenzhen, to the quarantine area. Residents deliver emergency supplies. As of June 2021, Meituan drones have completed more than 200,000 flight tests and delivered more than 2,500 real orders.
In addition to self-research, Meituan also established an unmanned distribution ecosystem through open platform cooperation and investment in ecological layout. At present, the field of unmanned distribution mainly involves three important scenarios: indoors, semi-enclosed parks and public roads. Meituan focuses on self-research and exploration of L4-level autonomous driving technical capabilities in outdoor scenarios, while covering indoor and semi-enclosed parks through investment and cooperation. In July 2018, Meituan also launched an open platform for unmanned delivery, inviting upstream and downstream partners in unmanned delivery scenarios including technology, vehicle, hardware, and operations to join in to build an ecological map.
To investigate the reason for such efforts, Wang Xing mentioned when answering technology-related questions at the shareholders’ meeting, “Meituan’s mission is to ‘help everyone eat better and live better’, and to achieve this mission, we need to rely on technology. Of course, no matter how exciting a technology is, it is a means, not an end in itself, and our purpose is to achieve our mission, so how we use technology and look at technology is what matters.”
From this point of view, Meituan has always been a technology company, because technology is embedded in their mission.
For this reason, Meituan divides its technical capabilities into two parts: software and hardware. On the one hand, Meituan has established the world’s largest order distribution and scheduling system, in which the algorithmic difficulty of huge data processing and order distribution is self-evident. , Correspondingly, Meituan currently has one of the largest software engineer teams in China, with more than 10,000 engineers.
On the other hand, as a leading e-commerce service platform, Meituan engages in services that require very strong fulfillment and delivery functions. So not only software, but also hardware is needed, which is why Meituan has been investing in unmanned delivery for a long time.
Wang Xing elaborated on this, “In 2020, we have successively invested in some Robotics-related companies. Robots mean intelligent hardware. Because we believe that with the continuous progress and development of driverless technology and intelligent robot technology, there will be an increase in efficiency. , there is huge potential to reduce costs and create a better experience for customers.”
Long-term hard technology investment layout
Looking back at Meituan’s efforts in hard technology investment, it started as early as 2018. The acquisition of a drone company and an investment in an IoT sensor company at the time, sources said, were both little-known projects because of their usual low profile and a successful IPO at the time.
In 2019, Meituan made two deals for overseas companies, Go-Jek and Opay, as investment participants to bet on unicorns in overseas emerging markets. In addition, in 2019, there was an investment in Qingping Technology, a developer of smart Electronic products. In 2020, Meituan has become active again in foreign investment, and has completed eight investments. Among them, the most worth mentioning is Meituan’s multiple investments in hard technology fields such as smart hardware, which made Meituan break the circle as a “hard technology investor”.
Today, the quality and quantity of the entire technology track are constantly improving at both the demand and supply ends. From the perspective of capital, comprehensive investment institutions need to consider the degree of industry dispersion, and it is impossible to account for too much in a certain track, and there are many investment opportunities in the field of hard technology. Those who have grown up through the entrepreneurial stage Internet companies have just become investors who can better capture opportunities on the track and discover high-quality projects.
Of course, another important reason is that the continuous improvement of China’s manufacturing capabilities and industrial digitization has established a relatively complete upstream and downstream industrial chain, which provides very good technical and scenario support for R&D technology. That is to say, Internet companies investing in technology can also use their own business scenarios and synergistic value to better help these future national core technologies to be implemented and promote the development of startups.
Among the Internet companies, Meituan is the one that really takes root in the domestic market and does not have any international business. The industrial service experience of deeply cultivating the local area and penetrating the supply chain of an industry has also increased the chances of Meituan discovering those emerging domestic technology companies.
So how does Meituan vote? From past investment cases, it can be seen that the investment led by Meituan’s strategic investment is different from other corporate strategic investment. Its investment logic in hard technology is traceable, and it is a typical strategy-driven investment. The invested company and its business There is a close connection. The hard technologies it invests in can more or less find commonalities with its own business scenarios, even if there are not many synergies in the short term. But it can be said that every hard technology investment made by Meituan is future-oriented, continuing the “long-termism” it insists on in its own business development, and investing a long-term perspective on those truly cutting-edge technology fields.
The one that seems to be the most famous and the furthest away is the Ideal Car.
In 2019, Meituan led the $530 million Series C financing of Ideal Auto, and then made a second investment in the $550 million Series D financing in July 2020. After these two investments were completed, Meituan became Ideal. Auto’s actual second-largest shareholder, with 5.8 percent of the voting rights.
On July 30, 2020, Li Auto officially went public in the United States, becoming the second new car-making force to be listed in the United States. During the listing process, Meituan subscribed for $300 million. On the same day, the market value of Ideal Auto reached 13.917 billion US dollars. Meituan has invested a total of US$1.16 billion in Li Auto, holding 24% of the shares, making it the largest shareholder of Li Auto.
Of course, the outside world may often interpret Meituan’s interest in ideal cars as a space for imagination in delivery technology. But Wang Xing’s expectations for this obviously don’t stop there. “The way of life that can be achieved in a car in the future will be no less than the convenience brought by a smartphone.” And when answering analysts’ questions, he said that the potential of electric vehicles is still underestimated. In the long run, Li Auto is developing autonomous driving technology, researching and innovative human-vehicle interaction, including voice control and other aspects that will have synergies with Meituan’s business in the future.
As for the keyword robotics that Wang Xing himself frequently mentioned at the financial report conference, after successive investments in Purdue Technology, Gaoxian Robot, Yinghe Robot, Mecamand, and Feixi Technology, Meituan has quietly become a It is the corporate battle investment that invests the most in robots. After participating in Purdue Technology’s 500 million yuan C round of financing, Meituan Zhantou has even invested in Purdue Technology for the third time.
“In the second half of 2020, we invested in some start-up companies. All the names of the companies have one thing in common. They all contain “Robotics”. Robots are very important to us. Robots mean intelligent hardware. I am more optimistic about the service industry. robot technology.”
Wang Xing once said on the earnings conference call that robots are one of the key verticals for Meituan’s investment. Robots are very important as a kind of intelligent hardware. Driven by various advanced technologies including robots, there is huge potential in the field of life services to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Purdue Technology is a well-known company focusing on the field of indoor distribution robots, focusing on the research and development, design and production of robots. Its low-speed automatic driving distribution robot products around the core technology have found application scenarios in restaurants and hotels, and are used in the same type of distribution. Leading position in the robotics market.
Meituan’s investment in Purdue Technology is conducive to combining the advantages of both parties and exploring the local life service and distribution robot industry.
After all, Meituan has already begun to lay out the field of unmanned delivery. In October 2016, Meituan established the W project team to develop unmanned vehicle delivery in specific scenarios. In 2017, the unmanned delivery department was officially established. Scientist Dr. Xia Huaxia is in charge.
At present, the epidemic situation in Guangzhou has attracted the attention of people all over the country. Various Internet companies have dispatched unmanned delivery teams to Guangzhou, and the lidar hardware of these unmanned vehicles is provided by Hesai Technology. Hesai recently announced the completion of more than $300 million in Series D financing. The familiar name of Meituan appeared again on the list of leading investors in this round.
In this regard, Zhu Wenqian, vice president of strategy and investment of Meituan, said, “Meituan Investment has always pursued long-term value investment, and firmly believes that good technology and good products can be extended from life scenarios to industrial chain layout. Autonomous driving is precisely driven by technological innovation. To improve the quality of life, and then to open up the value track of the industry chain. As the “eye” of autonomous driving, Hesai is driving the industry forward with its excellent technology and high-quality products. Meituan is very optimistic about Hesai Excellent partners in the industry chain, such as Hesai Technology, have established and carried out long-term and in-depth cooperation.”
This investment in commercialized hardware technologies such as Hesai Technology is also a reflection of Meituan’s investment in technology. As Wang Xing said, technology is only a means, so finding technology that can make the market pay and customers agree is another logic of Meituan’s hard technology investment. In general, we still focus on those cutting-edge hard technologies that have real long-term value, and grow together with these companies from a long-term perspective.
As China enters an important historical period of independent technology research and development and accelerated domestic substitution demand in key technology fields, the economic recovery in the post-epidemic era has also opened up opportunities for value chain restructuring in many industries including energy, manufacturing, technology, and consumption. History window.
Recently, according to the latest news, Meituan-affiliated company Kuxun Technology and Meituan Industrial Fund Meituan Longzhu both made a B round of investment in Shanghai Zhiyanxin Semiconductor Technology, and began to deploy semiconductor companies.
According to the data, AiCore independently developed a neural network processor IP for inference acceleration, which integrates powerful computing power and ultra-low power consumption. It can support the development of various visual tasks such as object detection and face recognition, and is widely used in smart cities. Smart retail, smart community, smart home, IoT devices and other fields.
This of course also puts forward new requirements for an Internet platform like Meituan. On the one hand, Meituan needs to continuously explore the optimal allocation of resources through its own development, and pursue long-term values such as environment, fairness, and society. On the other hand, it is also necessary to make good use of investment as a means to achieve social value and commercial value through continuous innovation together with more enterprises with cutting-edge technology capabilities.